Take Five (Summertime Blues and Reds edition)

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Take-FiveONE: The Original Kings of Comedy

With Stewart and Colbert in reruns, Congress in recess until September, and the phony hysterics over this summer’s White House pseudo-scandals losing their already dubious entertainment value through tiresome repetition, it’s been pretty damned tough to find a laugh recently.

Tough but not impossible: perhaps sensing a ready audience, the two obnoxious House Republicans who share the surname “King” have been competing in what amounts to an impromptu comedy slam. Iowa’s Steve King got out to an early lead about a month ago in a Newsmax TV interview with his now-viral comments about undocumented immigrants:

“Some of them are valedictorians — and their parents brought them in. It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents.

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert…”

Ignoring (or maybe reveling in) the widespread derision these remarks earned, King sat down with Laura Ingraham a week later for an eerily Palinesque interview, and laid it on even thicker:

“That description comes from many days down on the border, riding and sitting with the border patrol and without them at night, no night vision, watching the shadows come across the border, picking people up personally with my hands, unloading illegal drugs out of a vehicle with a false bottom under the truck… I mean this is a personal experience and I sit there at night and border patrol agents would come to me one at a time in their civil clothes and talk to me clandestinely…This description is the description from that kind of experience.”

Uh-huh. Cool story, bro. King had another kind of experience last week when he addressed a “Stop Amnesty” rally in Richmond, Virginia, an experience best described as “a complete waste of time for the very few concerned.” Undaunted and seemingly unembarrassed by the meager attendance, King treated the rally’s listless little crowd of “60 or so” to a classic bit of sophistry straight from Chapter 1 of Xenophobia for Dummies:

If you bring people from a violent civilization into a less-violent civilization, you’re going to have more violence right? It’s like pouring hot water into cold water, does it raise the temperature or not?

Coincidentally, Steve had already had cold water poured on his hopes of winning the hilarity steeplechase the day before, when New York’s Peter King unexpectedly told The Hill that he, Peter, was “serious” about exploring a presidential run. Presumably as “serious” as he was when he opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, opposed the repeal of DADT, opposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and claimed that 80 to 85% of mosques in America are “controlled by Islamic fundamentalists.” King is, after all, an all-round serious guy, but a presidential run? Really?

I definitely want to keep the party from going the route of what I call the ‘Rand Paul isolationist wing’ of the party… At the same time I’m testing the waters myself presidentially. It’s sort of like walking and chewing gum at the same time. I’m very serious about the issue but I’m also very serious about seeing what the possibilities are about running for president.”

Funny, funny stuff! But Steve King isn’t throwing in the towel. The Missouri rodeo clown with the Obama mask provided him with a perfect opportunity for some clownishness of his own. And what better venue for the Iowa King’s rudimentary thought processes than one that allows only 140 characters per post? Behold his tweet on the topic:

Mr. President: Invite the rodeo clown 2 the White House 4 a beer summit. Take the temperature down, have a laugh, relax. It’s not about race

Now, I don’t know if King believes any African American on the receiving end of racism should invite the racist over to sink some cool ones, or if the prescription only applies to the President, but I have a better idea in any case. How about a “jeer summit”? The President could host both Kings on the South Lawn, preferably fitted snugly into stocks or a pillory, and invite the public to mock them. Free admission for Muslims and Hispanics! Bring your own cantaloupes!

TWO: Baked on a Plane

Peter and Steve King only go so far, of course. Sometimes you have to make your own fun, and that’s just what an intrepid young man did recently in Cologne, Germany:

Germany’s security services are urgently investigating how a man was able to board Angela Merkel’s military jet where he partied alone for four hours wearing only underpants while high on drugs.

The man, a bodybuilder of Turkish descent named as Volkan T, 24, danced on a wing of the German chancellor’s aircraft, sprayed fire extinguisher foam around its luxury cabin and randomly pushed cockpit buttons, deploying an emergency evacuation slide…

Wow! So far, this all sounds sorta like my dream weekend, but Volkan T unfortunately managed to cut his good time short inadvertently:

The authorities were only alerted to the security breach, when he inadvertently triggered an alarm while playing with the cockpit buttons.

Adding to the embarrassment, it then took police, dogs, private security guards and soldiers three hours to get the intruder off the plane, including attempts to persuade him to give up shouted over a megaphone.

If only Chancellor Merkel’s security staff had shown that kind of determination when dealing with unwanted massages.

THREE: Heavy Medal

The White House recently announced the newest round of Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients. Established by JFK, the award celebrates its fiftieth birthday this year, with honorees including CT Vivian, Gloria Steinem, Loretta Lynn, Ernie Banks, Patricia Wald, Ben Bradlee, Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Arturo Sandoval, and posthumous honorees Bayard Rustin, Sally Ride and Daniel Inouye.

The one name on the list that got my hackles up was Richard Lugar, less for his being a Republican (although there is that) than for his being a Republican who was apparently sound asleep while his party was being hijacked by its worst elements, finally waking up and noticing what was going on only when Teabagger extremists successfully primaried him with the grotesque Richard Mourdock. Maybe he’s being honored for retiring from politics immediately after that debacle.

Lugar aside, this year continues what has become another quiet Obama achievement: giving the Presidential Medal of Freedom to people who (mostly) actually deserve it. So far, the list during his tenure includes names like Bob Dylan, Harvey Milk, Yo-Yo Ma, Billie Jean King, Stan Musial, John Glenn, Stephen Hawking, Desmond Tutu, John Lewis, Jasper Johns, Ted Kennedy and Toni Morrison.

All a remarkable contrast to the three people honored on December 14, 2004 by George Walker Bush. It was at the time and still remains nearly impossible to come up with three less deserving people than Tommy Franks, Paul Bremer and George Tenet. The closest I can think of would be Irving Kristol, the America-hating “godfather of neoconservatism” honored in 2002, and Bush’s fellow war criminals Tony Blair and John Howard, who received awards in 2009 a mere seven days before Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Notwithstanding all that, Bush’s two illegitimate terms also resulted in awards to Julia Child, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Aretha Franklin, Harper Lee and Carol Burnett, and George HW Bush was, unfortunately, an Obama honoree in 2011. Which proves, I guess, that the Presidential Medal of Freedom is an unreliable barometer for an administration’s ideological leanings, but remains an intriguing spectator sport. Continue reading Take Five (Summertime Blues and Reds edition)

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Take Five (The Anger Games edition)

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ONE: Party Scooper?

Sarah Palin has managed to turn feigned anger into a pretty damned lucrative pseudo-career. Now on her second stint with Fox News and coming off a headlining appearance at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual “Road to Majority” shindig, Palin’s newest gambit is to imply that she might cut and run from the Republican Party. The GOP power structure would probably be relieved were this to happen, but only to a point. Palin’s enduring popularity with zero-information conservatives could be the catalyst for a significant number of traditionally reliable Republican voters bolting for weirder pastures.

Asked by a Twitter questioner whether she and rightwing radio loudmouth Mark Levin might “be willing to build a ‘Freedom Party’ if [the] GOP continues to ignore conservatives,” Palin got right down to some of that fancy pageant walkin’ that remains her only true aptitude:

“I love the name of that party — the ‘Freedom Party,’” Palin said. “And if the GOP continues to back away from the planks in our platform, from the principles that built this party of Lincoln and Reagan, then yeah, more and more of us are going to start saying, ‘You know, what’s wrong with being independent,’ kind of with that libertarian streak that much of us have.”

Yes, uh, much of them do. Putting aside the absurdity of her characterization of Republicans as the “party of Lincoln and Reagan” – which is like calling Chicago the “city of Studs Terkel and John Wayne Gacy” – I’m guessing she could no more name a plank in the party platform than she could name a newspaper back in 2008. Palin continued, in commendably fluent Palinese:

“In other words, we want government to back off and not infringe upon our rights. I think there will be a lot of us who start saying ‘GOP, if you abandon us, we have nowhere else to go except to become more independent and not enlisted in a one or the other private majority parties that rule in our nation, either a Democrat or a Republican.’ Remember these are private parties, and you know, no one forces us to be enlisted in either party.”

Darn right they don’t, Governor. I won’t get my hopes up that this is anything more than you pandering to your fans, but if your comments were at all sincere, I look forward to you and your acolytes fancy pageant walkin’ your splinter cell, and the GOP, straight to permanent electoral oblivion.

TWO: Through a Glass Snarkly

Barack Obama’s first term was barely underway when I experienced my first queasy twinges of disappointment. At first, it was nothing overt, nothing readily explicable; a strangely off-kilter statement here, an abrupt about-face there. Soon came the willful misrepresentations, blatant distortions, even bald-faced lies. Almost before I knew it, I found myself feeling more and more burned, betrayed, deceived. The sentiments gradually intensified over months and years, eventually becoming something resembling utter, exasperated disgust.

I’m not referring to the President’s policies and actions (even ones I oppose adamantly, such as Race to the Top, the escalation in Afghanistan, some woeful compromises on energy policy and the environment, and some pretty questionable appointments). I’m referring to the hypertensive squawking that now passes for “criticism” across a broad swath of the cyber-left, and what has devolved into a churlish and counterproductive reaction to this presidency.

The recurring clichés tell a lot of the story. He “lied” about closing Gitmo. He “lied” about ending George Bush’s wars. He “dragged his feet” on DADT and DOMA. He “rolled over” on even trying to implement a universal, single-payer health care system and then “shrugged” at the failure of the public option. He “bailed out” Wall Street and “ignored” Main Street. He “embraced” the use of drones and expanded it to new operational theaters. He “ramped up” persecution of altruistic medical marijuana operations and courageous whistleblowers alike. He brutally “suppressed” the Occupy movement. He “wasted” his “huge” majorities from 2009 to 2011 and got “nothing” accomplished. He eschewed using the “power” of the bully pulpit (while giving “nice” speeches). And now he is “revealed” to have taken the surveillance state to new heights of “intrusive” overreach and “Orwellian” excess.

Throughout the Bush years, I depended on a host of progressive pundits and bloggers to keep me informed, encouraged and emboldened. Some of the very same people now seem more interested in inciting a howling mob to stand in a perpetual downpour outside the gates of the citadel, declaring as one that this presidency and this President have been failures. For some, it seems as if Barack Obama was de-legitimized merely by winning office and actually having to govern.

At the heart of much of the “criticism” is a sense that the “critics” feel jilted somehow, that the duplicitous Barack Obama represented himself as FDR Redux, that he campaigned as a fire-breathing progressive, that he was supposed somehow to govern simply by asking himself what George Bush would have done on any issue and then immediately doing the diametrical opposite. I don’t doubt that some of this is genuine and heartfelt, but it’s still heavily underpinned by the fierce urgency of unreasonable expectations and an unhealthy ignorance of basic civics, not to mention an oddly selective critical faculty that takes nothing the government says at face value but will readily suspend skepticism over the latest inane Paulite bullshit, or worse.

Equally illuminating is the strident name-calling found at the larger nominally progressive discussion sites (one of which purports to exist in part to “elect more Democrats”). Expressing confidence in the Democratic Party and the President, or articulating any degree of comfort with the notion of incremental change and willingness to accept the frustrations of compromise and misstep is simply courting vituperation. The epithets this supposed heresy solicits, some dating all the way back to early 2009, have become more and more meaningless as they have become more and more venomous: DINO, DLCer, Third Wayer, Vichy Dem, sellout, apologist, propagandist, fanboi, Kool-Aid drinker, authoritarian, worshipper. It’s debate by tantrum.

Add to this an astonishing compulsion to play the victim. Rahm Emmanuel called me retarded! I’ve been hippie-punched! The Catfood Commission wants to kill my granny! Robert Gibbs dissed the Professional Left, and I’m a leftist so he obviously meant me! Obama said I’m all wee-weed up! Obama told me to eat my peas!

A lot of this is grandstanding, theatrical ego-tripping; start with, say, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West and you can draw a direct line right to the oh-so-aggrieved message board bloviators who insist in the face of any and all evidence to the contrary that Obama is worse than Bush, to a frenetic chorus of hurrahs. The new frontier of perpetual outrage is limitless; anyone can stake a claim.

And then there’s race. The last thing in the world I want to believe is that any sincere liberal would have a problem with the President’s skin color, but comments from some quarters about his supposed passivity and ineptitude don’t sound very different to me from accusations of shiftlessness. There’s a rank ugliness about some of this that’s hard to fathom if it’s anything other than racism.

These things aren’t universal, of course. There are still rational voices on the left side of the Internet, and I count myself very grateful to be aligned with some of them right here on this site. Those voices don’t shy away from honest criticism where honest criticism is due. As well, only a fool would believe that the Obama Administration hasn’t mishandled and misjudged the progressive cyber-community on more than one occasion. But the potential impact of the digital grassroots has been blunted mostly by the shocking willingness of so many to wallow in disinformation and histrionics. The promise of a synergy between elected power and a vigorous leftosphere leveraging technology for information sharing and activism is lost in a miasma of all-caps paranoia and misdirected anger. A community organizer can’t organize a community that refuses to be organized. Continue reading Take Five (The Anger Games edition)

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Take Five (Dave Brubeck memorial edition)

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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)

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Take Five (1992 and All That edition)

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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:

Principle 1

Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.

Principle 4

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.

Principle 5

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.

Principle 20

Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.

Principle 21

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.

Principle 25

Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.

Principle 26

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)

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Take Five (Bled State, Rue State edition)

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ONE: Remember the MaineCare!

Governor Paul LePage, holly-jolly elf that he is, has a present in mind for 65,000 Mainers: no more health care. And another one for 4,400 people who made the misguided career choice to work in the health care field in Maine: no more job.

These Dickensian – uh, why don’t we just shorten that to “dickish”? – proposals would have to be approved by the legislature to become law, of course, but a poll last month gives LePage an approval rating of 47%, up from 31% last spring, so it seems that anything is possible in Maine these days. How that approval rating might hold up if LePage gets his way on this initiative is tough to predict, but prognostication of other effects is all too easy:

LePage’s proposal could increase the number of uninsured Mainers by about 50 percent, said Joseph Ditre, executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care. “Our uninsured rate would go from one of the lowest in the country (10 percent) to one of the higher rates in the country (15 percent),” he said. “More people will go to hospital emergency rooms after delaying care and the costs will be tacked onto every insured person’s premiums in the state.”

But wait! There’s more:

The proposal would end MaineCare support for residential facilities for the mentally and physically disabled, labeled “private, non-medical institutions,” to save $47 million in state funds. The facilities often house senior citizens who no longer own a residence but don’t need nursing home care.

“These people have given up everything to get this level of care,” said Karen Higgins, executive director of the Phillips-Strickland House in Bangor, where 42 of the 48 residents rely on MaineCare. “They have no home to go back to.”

You might think something like that would concern Paul LePage, who was once homeless himself, but you would be wrong. As to that claimed $47 million in savings from the residential facilities, the number is bogus on its face:

It will also be hard to explain why it makes sense to cut the MaineCare budget by eliminating funding that supports 4,000 assisted living residents, who would likely have to move to much more expensive nursing home beds, which also are part of the MaineCare budget.

Ah, but I’m sure LePage will get around to gutting state support for those nursing home beds some other time. Maybe Christmas 2012. As the same editorial notes, LePage’s general approach to fiscal responsibility is decidedly irresponsible:

These cuts would also result in the state losing federal funds, which match state dollars at a 2-to-1 rate. Under the LePage plan, that money would stop coming into Maine to support doctors, nurses, pharmacies, clinics, group homes and other businesses in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors of our economy.

It is hard to see how the governor could say with a straight face that this plan is an “effort to fix” the state’s high health care costs “once and for all.”

Instead, he appears to be using a crisis to further his pre-cooked political agenda that starts by demonizing poor people.

Yes, he sure as hell appears to be doing just that, doesn’t he? In an opinion piece for the Bangor Daily News, David Farmer, who was communications director for former Governor John Baldacci, puts this latest LePage fiasco into a broader and starkly unpretty context:

Gov. LePage passed his first budget in the spring, and just barely six months in, the CEO who promised to bring business experience to the Blaine House is in trouble.

His budget projections are on life support. His top people don’t understand what’s happening with spending inside their own department, and it’s left them chasing an ever-growing financial storm.

A $70 million budget problem morphed, almost overnight, into a $120 million problem just for the current fiscal year, which is just six months old. Now the problem, according to the governor, requires more than $220 million worth of cuts, which target the state’s elderly, disabled, children and working poor.

LePage and other so-called fiscal hawks were swept into governors’ mansions in 2010 by an electorate that had been carpet-bombed with ludicrous Teabagger rhetoric and scurrilous media misrepresentations of the agenda of President Obama and his party, in an economy still reeling from the stultifying hangover following the GOP’s drunken binge of tax cuts for the wealthy, criminal wars of choice and the orgiastic excesses of deregulated capitalism, but keep in mind that in a state with a population of about 1,300,000, LePage attained office in 2010 with a roughly 8,000-vote plurality in a four-way race.

He may have been even quicker to shout “Mandate!” than George Bush the Lesser back in 2001, but a few thousand people thinking twice about their votes could have sent him back to the private sector. Mainers won’t get another chance to do that until 2014.

TWO: Eight Legged Freight

Another story out of Maine this week has no evident connection to LePage. Well, maybe a metaphorical one, come to think of it. Bath Iron Works, which is building a destroyer for the Navy, received what was intended to be a routine shipment of missile launcher parts from a California supplier, but also received a little something not mentioned on the bill of lading: two dozen black widow spiders:

BIW spokesman James DeMartini said the spiders were eradicated by a professional pest service and that none have been seen in the past week or so… A warehouse where the crates were stored initially, as well as some compartments of the future USS Michael Murphy, an Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyer under construction at BIW, were fumigated, said DeMartini…

Aside from hiring the exterminator, DeMartini said BIW officials communicated with state and Navy officials as they dealt with the problem. Company doctors also had discussions with several employees who work in the affected areas, but DeMartini said no one was bitten. Despite the fact BIW receives shipments of parts and materials from far and wide, DeMartini said the arrival of the venomous spiders was a first to his knowledge.

Weird, though maybe not as weird as naming a destroyer after a likeable character actor whose credits include An Unmarried Woman, Manhattan and Batman Returns. Continue reading Take Five (Bled State, Rue State edition)

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Take Five (Rapture-Almost-Ready edition)

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ONE: 21 is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.

Back in 1942, the University of California at Berkeley awarded a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering to Harold Egbert Camping. That wouldn’t be unusual, except that Camping seems to have no mathematical aptitude whatsoever. And/or he’s just a liar.

Camping, a self-taught Bible instructor, runs Family Radio International, which broadcasts on 66 stations, but he’s become much more famous for recurrent predictions about Armageddon. Most recently, he claimed May 21 was the drop-dead date. It was not:

The day after his prediction that the world would end on May 21, 2011 failed to materialize, Harold Camping told the San Francisco Chronicle he was “flabbergasted.”

Which is sort of an odd reaction, since he’s had egg on his face before:

Camping had previously predicted the Rapture would occur back in 1994. When it didn’t, he explained that an error in his mathematical computations from clues in the Bible were to blame, and he later revised his forecast.

This go-round, however, Camping was sure he had it sussed, and when it became clear that he didn’t, he embarked on a brief spiritual retreat:

Camping… said he felt so terrible when his doomsday message did not come true that he left home and took refuge in a motel with his wife.

Sufficiently cheered by a couple of days at the motel, he returned to the spotlight to announce that the correct, can’t-miss, this-time-for-sure date is October 21. He also managed to spin his May 21 prediction thus:

Through chatting with a friend over what he acknowledged was a very difficult weekend, it dawned on him that instead of the biblical Rapture in which the faithful would be swept up to the heavens, May 21 had instead been a “spiritual” Judgment Day, which places the entire world under Christ’s judgment, he said.

Ah, well, that must be it.

Camping’s problem with numbers was demonstrated once again when the topic shifted to money:

Camping offered no clues about Family Radio’s finances Monday, saying he could not estimate how much had been spent on getting out his prediction nor how much money the nonprofit had taken in as a result. In 2009, the nonprofit reported in IRS filings that it received $18.3 million in donations, and had assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks or other publicly traded securities.

But of course this isn’t about money. It’s about faith:

The globe will be completely destroyed in five months, he said, when the apocalypse comes.

“We’ve always said May 21 was the day, but we didn’t understand altogether the spiritual meaning,” he said. “The fact is there is only one kind of people who will ascend into heaven … if God has saved them they’re going to be caught up.”

I have no proof, but I suspect the motel already has a room reserved for two for October 22. Continue reading Take Five (Rapture-Almost-Ready edition)

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Take Five (mad, bad and dangerous to know edition)

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ONE: I don’t like Mondays.

Not satisfied with simply destroying American broadcast journalism and inflicting possibly irreparable harm on the nation’s body politic, Fox News has unveiled its new Monday morning bloviator.

The very same week the network announced Glenn Beck’s program is officially circling the drain, a move which could almost make me believe someone rational has been added to what passes for their brain trust, Fox achieved a new low by adding Donald Trump to their stable of braying asses:

“Mondays with Trump,” a brand new segment where “The Donald now makes his voice loud and clear on Fox” on the news of the day.

Because, you know, who on earth can make sense of the news without hearing what Donald Trump has to say about it? But wait, you say. Trump’s already indicated that he’s running for President. Doesn’t that mean he shouldn’t be appearing on Fox News?

Rest easy, grasshopper. They’ve found a loophole for him:

[Dana] Klinghoffer, the Fox News spokesperson, said that Trump will be permitted to continue making the regular Monday appearance even if he declares a presidential campaign, since he is not a paid contributor. It would be highly unusual for a network to give a regular weekly forum to a declared presidential candidate.

Fox News suspended Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich as contributors in March ahead of their likely presidential campaigns. The network also employs Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, both of whom say they are considering presidential runs.

Trump’s recent appearance on the O’Reilly Factor gives us an idea of what to expect, not only about his worth as a commentator on current events, but as aspiring Leader of the Free World. He summarized his Iraq “policy” in 11 faintly Palinesque sentences:

You stay and protect the oil and you take the oil and you take whatever is necessary for them and you take what’s necessary for us and we pay our self back $1.5 trillion or more. We take care of Britain, we take care of other countries that helped us and we don’t be so stupid.

You know, we’re the only country and if you look at wars over the years and I study wars, OK? My whole life is a war. You look at wars over the years. A country goes in, they conquer and they stay. We go in, we conquer and then we leave. And we hand it to people that we don’t even know. Now, who are the people that are going to be running Iraq? The person that hates the United States the most will be running Iraq. So, in a nutshell, we go in, we take over the second largest oil fields and we stay.

Somewhere on a quiet street in Houston’s posh Tanglewood neighborhood, George Walker Bush turns off the television, pours himself a pint of Jim Beam, looks down at Barney and says, “Why does a half-wit like this think he could be President?” Continue reading Take Five (mad, bad and dangerous to know edition)

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Take Five (Joe Morello memorial edition)

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ONE: “Honest and shared solutions…”

Against the backdrop of the furor in Wisconsin, it’s easy to overlook Republican governmental malfeasance ongoing in the other states where the GOP garnered unfortunate victories last November. I confess to being fed up with writing about outrageous rookie Republican governors, but since they steadfastly refuse to stop being jerks, it seems I have no choice.

A couple of weeks back, Maine Governor Paul LePage ventured his opinion that plastics additive bisphenol A is – well, let’s turn to his own words, since a paraphrase just wouldn’t do them justice:

“Quite frankly, the science that I’m looking at says there is no [problem],” LePage said. “There hasn’t been any science that identifies that there is a problem.”

LePage then added: “The only thing that I’ve heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards.”

That last comment prompted a strong reaction from Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, a Maine-based advocacy group.

“It displays shocking ignorance for the science and a callous disregard for children’s health,” Belliveau said.

Fiddlesticks, Mr. Belliveau. Just because Governor LePage’s higher education was in business administration doesn’t mean he couldn’t have taken some electives or even pursued a minor in, um, Benefits of BPA or Chemically-Induced Hirsutism, though I’m inclined to think any non-business courses he ever took probably centered around such popular academic disciplines as Pissing Off Rational People, Building a Bridge to the Seventeenth Century, or Who Cares What Anyone Else Thinks Anyway.

The National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have said they have “some concern” about BPA’s effects on fetuses, children and infants at current exposure levels through food and the environment but that more research is needed…

LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt said the WHO and European Food Safety Authority positions point to the fact that there is no “consensus science” on the health impacts of BPA.

“Consumers can make their own choices,” Demeritt said. “But in terms of state policy, we have to have consensus.”

See how that works? State policy requires “consensus”, but in the emerging idiocracy of Republican-run states like Maine, it’s only required when it comes to things like dealing with a substance already declared dangerous and met with restrictions by eight other states and Canada.

No such “consensus” was required when LePage exempted his own pension from the 25%-plus hike in employee contributions he wants to impose on his fellow Maine civil servants. Continue reading Take Five (Joe Morello memorial edition)

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