Take Five (Hot Mess in the Summertime edition)

Take-FiveONE: Happiness Is a Warm Diorama

Last Friday, the NRA opened its “National Sporting Arms Museum” in Bass Pro Shops’ mammoth flagship store in Springfield, Missouri. Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris was so taken with the NRA’s National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia that he generously underwrote the new museum, where visitors will have an opportunity to drool over almost 1,000 guns, some of them historic, plus “detailed dioramas and displays.”

Guns & Ammo sent author and gun enthusiast SP Fjestad in for a preview. He was not disappointed:

The firearms displays are grouped within time periods, with some of the best dioramas I’ve ever seen placed in between them. These included a buffalo hunter, a 1950s hunting cabin, Lewis & Clark, Native American hunter, and modern-day father and daughter decked out in camo.

Yes, that does sound special, and worth every penny of the free admission. The new collection complements the Virginia museum‘s 1,700 guns and “state-of-the-art” firing range boasting “touch-screen target retrieval.” Impressive as all that is, I can’t help but think the NRA needs to let its corporate imagination run just a little wilder.

The full text of every piece of gun control legislation the organization has helped to defeat over the years might make a nifty exhibit, although it would take a hellaciously long time to read them all. What about a Gallery of Preschool Firearms Victims, or a Worst Gun Massacres Hall of Fame? Hey, Charlton Heston’s cold, dead hands could certainly pack in the crowds, especially if they were holding something sleek and high-caliber. Personally, I’d love to see an interactive, animatronic Wayne LaPierre that turns bright red and spews spittle at the utterance of certain, uh, trigger words, like “regulation” or “background check” or “civilized society.” Then again, the real Wayne LaPierre could do that even better, and he’s already on the payroll.

TWO: The Fun Also Rises

Used to be that when I heard the words “bull run” the first thing I thought of was Manassas, but that may change if entrepreneur Rob Dickens’ new brainstorm, The Great Bull Run, is successful. Its website describes it as an “adrenaline-filled experience” you can “[cross] off your bucket list without breaking the bank.” It kicks off in Petersburg, Virginia on August 24, with stops in Georgia and Texas scheduled for later in the year. Florida, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Illinois will be added to the roster in 2014.

The website generously credits Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls as inspiration, but notes that the American version has “significantly more safety protections” and its bulls “aren’t killed after the event or otherwise abused in order to make them run.” And those aren’t the only differences. I have no idea what extras, if any, Pamplona features in its Eurotrashy, old-fashioned event, but Dickens and Co. are offering up a little something they call Tomato Royale, inspired by yet another Spanish tradition, La Tomatina Buñol. Pamplonians (Pamplonites? Pamplemousses?) can read it and weep:

Tomato Royale is an insane tomato food fight that happens three times a day at each event. When the music starts, participants sprint to crates of tomatoes stationed around the arena and the free-for-all begins! Hurl tomatoes at your family, friends and fellow participants without guilt, inhibition or remorse!

Each bull run ticket also includes entry to Tomato Royale, but non-runners can join in the fun, too.

Having done it more than once as a farmhand, I have no desire to try and outrun half a ton of annoyed male bovine again, but the idea of throwing tomatoes at total strangers, especially Republicans, sounds pretty groovy. Prices at various venues range between $35 and $65 for the run, which also gets you into Tomato Royale and entitles you to a free t-shirt and a free beer. Yep. Free t-shirts and beer. Sucks to be you, Pamplona.

THREE: Pity Party

Much was made of the Republican Party’s attempts, post-election, to strategize its way out of its current doldrums, to broaden its appeal, to become – however improbably – the Party of Know.

It all kicked off with the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” whose 100-page report, released in March, advocated greater outreach to minorities, women and young voters. The same week, RNC Chair Reince Priebus dutifully announced a $10-million minority outreach effort, and did the interview circuit to inform everyone of what everyone except the RNC already knew:

“Focus groups described our party as ‘narrow minded,’ ‘out of touch,’ and ‘Stuffy old men.’”

Priebus then trotted out a canard beloved of Republicans who refuse to admit their ideas stink:

“It all goes back to what our moms used to tell us: It’s not just what we say; it’s how we say it.”

The great Will Durst described this wrongheaded approach much more eloquently:

No need to demonstrate more compassion, the trick is to seem more compassionate… In other words, all they need to do is to bleach the leopard’s spots.

The spot-bleaching and the minority outreach, to date, have been less than successful. Pablo Pantoja, the acclaimed “Director of Florida Hispanic Outreach for the Republican National Committee,” gave up on his party in May:

“Yes, I have changed my political affiliation to the Democratic Party.

It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today.”

No, it certainly doesn’t, especially with old white conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly noisily insisting that the party is barking up the wrong demographic. Between sips of embalming fluid, Schlafly recently told a rightwing radio host:

… the people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes…

A couple of weeks later, Georgia conservative social activist Rich Thompson – at an event ludicrously christened “The True Rainbow Coalition: Building an Organization in Minority Faith Communities” – showed just why GOP minority outreach was doomed from the get-go:

… right now an extremely disproportionate number of people of color are being paid by the government. Therein lies a serious problem. We can’t just cut everybody off instantaneously. But we have to have a serious conversation about how we get people to being producers and not receivers. So I thank you for coming this evening to find out how we can better message to people of the black community, the Latino community, and the Asian community.

The party’s efforts to court women have been no more effective, and are painfully epitomized by the 43 restrictions on women’s reproductive rights passed in 2012, not to mention the 92 passed in 2011.

As to the youth vote, the College National Republican Committee has provided their elders little cause for optimism:

The Republican Party’s troubles with young voters are well known. But a new internal report virtually elevates the threat level to apocalyptic, declaring that the GOP needs a “fundamental re-thinking” of its approach in order to remain viable with the younger generation.

Adding to all this bad news for Republicans is that their fondness for lying has not gone unnoticed. The Center for Media and Public Affairs released the results of a study showing that PolitiFact “has rated Republican claims as false three times as often as Democratic claims.” Meanwhile, there are indications that the RNC’s smarm offensive may well have come too late:

The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorably…

But at the end of the day, the biggest problem for Republicans might not be their strategists, their candidates, or their elected officials. It might be their voters:

A new CNN poll shows just how far away from sanity the Republican Party has drifted. According [to] the poll, 80% of Republicans think George W. Bush’s presidency was a success.

And a more recent poll confirms that many of the party’s voters still have their heads screwed on at least half a turn too loose. Asked which direction Republican leaders should move, 54% of respondents opted for “conservative direction” while only 40% urged a move toward moderation. Even more amazingly, 35% of respondents believe Republicans have “compromised too much” with Democrats, and 32% believe the amount of compromise has been “about right.” It would have been fascinating to see how many respondents could even name a single example of their party compromising with Democrats, other than the bipartisan Gang of Eight immigration bill hammered out in the Senate, since consigned to the House to die a painful death at the hands of – wait for it – intransigent Republicans.

On same-sex marriage, 31% of respondents believe the party’s stance has been “too conservative,” but 27% feel it’s “not conservative enough.” On abortion, “too conservative” was the choice of 25% while “not conservative enough” garnered 26%.

Favorables and unfavorables for various GOP leading lights were also intriguing. Would-be Veep Paul Ryan scored 65% favorable against a mere 15% unfavorable, but “next big noise” Ted Cruz was favorable to only 33% of respondents, while 13% gave him a thumbs-down and a surprising 53% had no opinion.

Best of all, the survey found that Republicans of the Tea Party persuasion constitute 37% of respondents, but 49% of those who “always vote in primary” are Teabaggers. All of which means that 2014 may not be as dire as Nate Silver has been hinting, and 2016 is looking up. Continue reading Take Five (Hot Mess in the Summertime edition)

Take Five (Really, Really, Really Fuzzy Math edition)

ONE: Misunderestimations

This week marked the tenth anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq, illegal as in fraudulently undertaken, thereby invalidating any supposed sanction previously conferred either by Congress or the United Nations, and also incomprehensibly immoral, like all crimes against humanity.

There should be no surcease, ever, of denunciation of the criminal horror unleashed on Iraq by the Bush administration and those who helped enable it, the latter largely for shamefully political reasons. In a nation with such a bounteous supply of prisons, there’s plenty of room to house the guilty for the rest of their lamentably natural lives, and their accomplices for some fraction thereof.

I have no hope that either will ever happen.

This week, fifteen months after the last combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq, the anniversary was marked in George Bush’s “beacon of democracy in the Middle East” with a wave of lethal violence, tersely quantified by the New York Times:

… 57 dead and nearly 190 wounded in separate attacks that included 17 car bombs, 2 adhesive bombs stuck to cars, and a killing with a silenced gun.

This week, Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies released the results of a study conducted by its Cost of War Project. The study found:

The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest…

The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number…

When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war’s death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said.

Yes, effecting mass death, destruction and chaos is more efficient than ever, yet it still doesn’t come cheap. Of course, that’s not how the Bush junta made its sales pitch. In the run-up to The Decider’s trigger finger getting intolerably itchy, Mitch Daniels, his OMB director, nudged up the saturation on the administration’s already over-saturated blue skies, to obscure what it would really cost in borrowed cash to dust off Saddam Hussein as one would a garden pest and install a compliant regime straight out of whatever remained of Dick Cheney’s wet dreams:

Mr. Daniels would not provide specific costs for either a long or a short military campaign against Saddam Hussein. But he said that the administration was budgeting for both, and that earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush’s former chief economic adviser, were too high.

And then he added a scabrous little grace note:

Mr. Daniels cautioned that his budget projections did not mean a war with Iraq was imminent, and that it was impossible to know what any military campaign against Iraq would ultimately cost.

The viciously, deliberately dishonest math behind all this has long been known, although it has constantly been revised upwards. Contrasts were drawn between prediction and reality almost from the outset, despite the best efforts of White House propagandists, supine but incessantly talkative members of Congress, and the jitterbugging marionettes of the mainstream media. The immense gap between the predicted and actual numbers probably still provokes gales of rheumy cackling whenever the old gang gathers around the fireplace for a snifter of brandy or human blood in whatever dank privy the original PNAC signatories still hold their unholy soirées.

TWO: With Fiends Like These…

Over and above the rancor they directed at Democrats, progressives and various other favorite scapegoats for the deleterious effects of their own wretched ideas, participants at CPAC ‘s 40th anniversary shindig last week were also remarkably splenetic toward each other.

Rick Perry brought a McCain/Romney dartboard:

“Now, the popular media narrative is that this country has shifted away from conservative ideals, as evidenced by the last two presidential elections… That is what they say. That might be true if Republicans had actually nominated conservative candidates in 2008 and 2012…”

Rand Paul was even more bluntly insolent to his elders:

“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered… I don’t think we need to name any names here, do we?”

Donald Trump’s post-speech press conference featured another of the oafish magnate’s swipes at Karl Rove:

“This is the same mind that spent $400 million and didn’t win a race. He’s the most overrated person in politics…”

Louie Gohmert discharged a lot of indiscriminate buckshot, some of which winged the Nixon administration:

“Vietnam was winnable, but people in Washington decided we should not win it.”

Sarah Palin continued her lupercalian vendetta against sort-of-Republican Mike Bloomberg:

“Bloomberg’s not around,” Palin joked as she slurped on a giant soda, “our Big Gulps are safe.”

Brent Bozell dragged in a whole sack of grudges. Against, for example, Paul Ryan:

“… your proposed budget that has the federal government spending $41 TRILLION over the next ten years, with more and more and more spending increases every single year, and assumes all the oppressive Obamacare taxes. Congressman, that’s what liberal Democrats do, not us.

“This is not conservatism. It is, literally, Democrat Lite…”

Against Haley Barbour:

“… my friend, when you call for unity and on conservatives to ‘sing from the same hymnal’ and then publicly trash good conservative groups like Club for Growth for supporting good conservatives, you’re out of tune, and you’re out of line…”

Against the House leadership:

“John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy… you, like virtually every single other Republican elected to Congress solemnly vowed to rid us of Obamacare, which you can do simply by refusing to fund it. Why haven’t you done so?

“You’ve done nothing for over two years but give us excuses and more commitments that tomorrow, yes tomorrow, you’ll honor your promises. Gentlemen, where promises are concerned, you are not what you promised to be.”

With all the heated infighting, it’s a good thing attendees could buy a Marco Rubio water bottle in the exhibit hall.

THREE: Minority Report I

Desperate to garner votes from minority groups they mostly would prefer not to have anything to do with, Republicans still don’t seem to understand the difference between genuine outreach and simple smash-and-grab.

Take the CPAC breakout session called “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” chaired by K. Carl Smith, an African-American conservative. What could go wrong? Lots: Continue reading Take Five (Really, Really, Really Fuzzy Math edition)

Take Five (Cry If I Want To edition)

ONE: There’s Got to Be a Morning After

On November 7, the sun rose over a Republican Party in bleary-eyed disarray. Clearly, it was time for institutional soul searching, time to push the chair back from the immovable feast of civic ignorance, time to build bridges to women, blacks, Hispanics, the LGBT community, time to stop screeching and – politely, respectfully, humbly – rejoin the American conversation.

Naturally, none of this happened. Instead, the GOP nonchalantly brushed the cigarette butts off the pizza crusts, shook off its electoral hangover, and resumed its reckless bender. Compromise? Nope. Public interest? Don’t care. Policy proposals? Not a chance. Constitution? Screw it.

There’s no better (meaning worse) example of this than Louie Gohmert. The fifth-term Texas Congressman kicked off 2013 by joining with the equally loathsome Paul Broun to nominate Allen West for Speaker of the House, but quickly moved on to what Gohmert considers much more serious business, in this case the defense of the Republic from the grave and gathering threat of, uh… sharia law.

Gohmert used a recent appearance on a rightwing radio show to share his “thoughts” on the topic:

We – we’ve got some people that think Sharia Law ought to be the law of the land, forget the Constitution. But the guns are there, that Second Amendment is there, to make sure all the rest of the Amendments are followed.

Of course, this is the same guy who commented, following the Newtown massacre:

I wish to God [the principal] had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.

If there’s a silver lining to having Gohmert sitting in the House of Representatives, it’s that he no longer presides as Chief Justice of the Texas 12th Court of Appeals, a position to which he was appointed in 2002 by fellow empty-headed loudmouth Rick Perry.

TWO: Michele Bachmann, Job Creator

Her presidential campaign never got past Iowa. She barely held on to her House seat despite outspending her Democratic opponent by a factor of 11. She’s currently embroiled in a sordid set-to with former campaign staffers over unpaid wages and various other alleged improprieties. Despite all that, Michele Bachmann is heartily pleased with herself.

In an appearance at Patrick Henry College the other day as part of the school’s Newsmakers interview series, Bachmann boasted:

“If you’re a conservative you can never get anything wrong and I was very proud of the fact that I didn’t get anything wrong that I said during the course of the debates… It forces a person to be better. You have to be a virtual Wikipedia.”

Or not. At all. As Raw Story points out:

During the Republican presidential primary debates, Bachmann claimed the HPV vaccine could cause mental retardation.

And in a later debate, Bachmann claimed she had never made the claim.

She also claimed President Barack Obama had “the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern times,” accused former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney of implementing “socialized medicine,” and said the U.S. “will be paying for the entire People’s Liberation Army of China” by 2015.

In a November 2011 debate, Bachmann insisted that the Obama Administration had canceled the Keystone XL pipeline (it hadn’t) and the 20,000 jobs it would supposedly create (it won’t), and that the President had met, without preconditions, no less, with Iranian officials (he didn’t).

This is just the latest example of Bachmann vigorously and quite inappropriately patting herself on the back for veracity she doesn’t possess. In one of the debates, she went as far as asserting that PolitiFact backed her up:

“After the debate that we had last week, PolitiFact came out and said that everything I said was true.”

Of course, Politifact had done no such thing:

… in fact, Bachmann earned two ratings from us at that debate, a Mostly True for her claim that Newt Gingrich advocated for the individual mandate in health care and a Pants on Fire for her claim that Mitt Romney set up a health plan in Massachusetts that is “socialized medicine.”

And PolitiFact didn’t let it go at that:

… The fact that Bachmann would cite us was interesting given that her PolitiFact report card shows 60 percent of her ratings have been False or Pants on Fire.

In another debate, Bachmann hilariously claimed that raising the debt ceiling would be equivalent to handing Barack Obama a “blank check,” but I agree with John Avlon that a favorite hit from the Bachmann songbook of deceit is this:

“This is one thing we know about Barack Obama. He has essentially handed over our interrogation of terrorists to the ACLU. He’s outsourced it to them. Our CIA has no ability to have any form of interrogation for terrorists.”

Bachmann may consider herself a “virtual Wikipedia,” but I think Robert Schlesinger was a lot closer to the mark when he described her as:

… practically a walking, talking full-employment plan for journalistic fact-checkers.

THREE: Three of an Imperfect Pair

But a vibrant democracy needs more than just elected asshats; it also needs unelected ones. Enter Larry Pratt, Stan Solomon and Greg W. Howard.

Pratt is something of a Renaissance asshat. Yes, he did serve briefly in the Virginia House of Delegates, but he’s been far more active and effective since leaving office. He founded the xenophobic organization English First, served as a board member of ALEC, and currently helms Gun Owners of America, a group of firearms fetishists who consider the NRA a bunch of pinko sellouts.

Solomon is a broadcast hatemonger with a particular bent for homophobia, and is best known for his inability to shut up.

Howard is sort of a journeyman asshat. He considers Alan Keyes “eloquent” and Twitter a “haven for cyberbullying, pornography, racism,” he describes abortion in the African American community as “America’s Holocaust,” and he has a strange obsession with Saul Alinsky, in much the same way, I suppose, that some people are obsessed with Space Food Sticks or surreys with a fringe on top or The Buggles. Continue reading Take Five (Cry If I Want To edition)

Food for Thought

If you’ve ever watched Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, you know the inevitable lead-in to every show: a harried restaurant owner bemoans the fact that he’s losing customers by the dozens, but is always quick to point out that his food (invariably self-described as nothing less than fabulous!) could not possibly be the cause of the decline in business.   They will blame their wait staff’s laziness, the chef’s inattentiveness to detail, even a poor choice of china, flatware, and decor.  But the food, they will insist, can’t possibly be the problem.

And so it now goes with the GOP, who – after what passes for thoughtful introspection and intelligent discussion among its PTB (cue laugh track here) – have determined that the fare they are selling to the voting public is as tasty and nutritious as ever, and the lack of loyal customers is simply a matter of failing to promote the same old/same old menu items they’ve offered up for decades.

“It’s not the platform of the party that’s the issue,” stated Reince Priebus, the recently thawed-and-reheated RNC chairman.  “In many cases, it’s how we communicate about it.  It is a couple dumb things that people have said.”

No offense to Mr. Priebus – who is probably no better at math than he is winning elections – but by my count, the dumb things said by Republicans during last year’s presidential campaign alone numbers in the hundreds.  And “dumb” hardly describes some of the statements made, which were more in the category of baseless, fact-free, easily debunked lies, with a side order of bullshit.  But to be fair, the bullshit is always served on an all-you-can-eat basis, offered up on pristine white china that may be old and cracked, but deemed still serviceable by management.

“We don’t need a new pair of shoes; we just need to shine our shoes,” opined West Virginia national committeewoman Melody Potter, the idea being that if you serve shit sandwiches on carefully polished plates, the world will beat a path to your deli counter.

Of course, the Republican party’s strict rule has always been no shoes, no shirt = no service, and the shoeless and shirtless (i.e. women, minorities, welfare and food-stamp recipients, veterans, the disabled, the homeless, the sick, etc.) have traditionally been turned away due to a lack of available seating, while “Reserved for Old White Men” placards grace every table.

“The principles are sound,” said former RNC chairman, Mike Duncan. “Enlarging the map means reaching out to a lot more people and having a consistent dialogue with those people… It’s inviting them in. It’s communicating with them in the proper forums: it’s not just language but where they’re reading. It’s explaining the values to them.”

Yeah, that’s the ticket, Mike.  It’s time to start inviting in the very people the GOP has dismissed as takers-not-makers, parasites whose only sustenance comes from suckling at the government teat, the minorities who have been told their place is in the kitchen scrubbing pots, and the women who have been permitted to dine alongside their male counterparts so long as they STFU and allow the men to not only dominate the dinner conversation, but choose which menu items the ladies will be allowed to eat.

“We can stand by our timeless principles and articulate them in ways that are modern, relevant to our time and relatable to the majority of voters,” said Priebus.  “That, I believe, is how we’ll achieve a Republican renewal.”

Despite the GOP’s claims that they only need some new signage out front and a more pleasing font on the menus, the fact remains that the “principles” they believe they should be explaining to the citizenry are not principles at all.  They are the same long-held policies – on everything from immigration to healthcare, from education to a woman’s right-to-choose – that are so far past their expiry date, they are not only unpalatable; they are likely to cause ptomaine poisoning.

“When it comes to young people, when it comes to new African-American leaders, Hispanic leaders, we really have done an incredible job over the last few years,” Preibus continued.  “We’ve just done a lousy job bragging about it.” Continue reading Food for Thought

Take Five (New Year's Eve edition)

ONE: Post-Apocalypse Study Group Rolled Out

Man of constant sorrow Reince Priebus recently announced that the Republican National Committee is launching what it calls the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” an exercise in institutional soul-searching designed to identify how the party got its collective butt whupped last November and to find ways to “ensure Republicans are victorious in 2013, 2014, 2016 and beyond.”

The RNC is so serious about this that they’ve already unveiled the names of the heavy hitters who will form the project’s steering committee. And what names they are! Henry Barbour, nephew of the legendarily execrable Haley, former Jeb Bush Chief of Staff Sally Bradshaw, former GW Bush propaganda catapult operator Ari Fleischer, plus Glenn McCall, a – gasp! – African American, and Zori Fonelledas, a – ZOMG! – Puerto Rican.

While I can’t help the RNC with future victories (and I’ll be horrified if they ever have any), in the spirit of good old-fashioned bipartisanship and this joyous holiday season, I’m quite happy to identify for them what went wrong in 2012. I can do it in six short words. Got a pen handy, Reince? You’ll want to jot this down.

Mitt Romney. Paul Ryan. Your policies.

You’re welcome!

TWO: Un-American Heritage

2012 still has a few minutes to go, but I have my nominee for the year’s most inadvertently funny quote, and I’m sticking with it. Asked to comment on Jim DeMint’s decision to resign his Senate seat to preside over that notorious America-hating “think” tank, the Heritage Foundation, conservative academic John J. Pitney claimed:

“What Heritage does is influence the intellectual debate.”

In a way, I suppose Pitney’s absolutely correct. Heritage (among other malevolent rightwing institutions) has influenced the intellectual debate, but only by removing intellect from it completely.

Which brings us to Jim DeMint, whose impressive track record of egregious tomfoolery, twaddle and Teabaggery is a perfect fit for the Heritage Foundation. “Greenville’s foulest” has insisted that gay people and women who have sex out of wedlock should be barred from teaching, averred that “the bigger government gets, the smaller God gets,” threatened to read the full text of 2010′s START treaty and omnibus spending bills on the Senate floor as a deliberate stalling tactic because the mid-December timing of the legislation was somehow “sacrilegious,” compared the United States to “Germany… before World War II where they became a social democracy,” cheered for the 2009 military coup in Honduras, and gushed about the idea of working with Glenn Beck.

So what does Senator Teabag envision for the Heritage Foundation? Not surprisingly, his end game is getting more ultraconservatives elected:

… DeMint said he is taking the Heritage job because he sees it as a vehicle to popularize conservative ideas in a way that connects with a broader public. “This is an urgent time,” the senator said, “because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections.” Mr. DeMint, who was a market researcher before he entered politics, said he plans to take the Heritage Foundation’s traditional research plus that of think tanks at the state level and “translate those policy papers into real-life demonstrations of things that work.” He said, “We want to figure out what works at the local and state level” and give those models national attention.

The RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project, though, might just want to think twice about keeping DeMint on speed-dial:

Mr. DeMint’s leadership PAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund, spent $5.48 million in the 2010 and 2012 elections, and out of 27 races that it stepped into, his preferred candidate won either the primary or general election 8 times.

Keep on keepin’ on, Jimbo.

THREE: First, Do Much Harm

Despite DeMint’s impending departure, the 113th Congress will not want for cretinous Republican senators. Exhibit A: Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn. The lurid war of disinformation and misinformation about the impending “Fiscal Cliff” has been heating up for weeks, but Coburn’s remarks to George Stephanopolous on December 9 remain a uniquely objectionable contribution to the discussion:

“It doesn’t really matter what happens at the end of this year because ultimately the numbers and the bond holders throughout the world will determine what we’ll spend and what we won’t. So, we can play the political game that is being played out in Washington right now or we can be absolutely honest with the American people and say, ‘Medicare is going bankrupt, Social Security disability will be bankrupt in two years, Social Security trust fund will be bankrupt in five years, Social Security total will be bankrupt in 16,17 years.’

“The fact is we are spending money we don’t have on things we don’t absolutely need…”

Coburn is a medical doctor who’s also terrified that Obamacare is a stealth method of eventually imposing – horrors! – a single-payer healthcare system on innocent freedom-worshipping Americans. He has also voted against a raft of measures that would increase revenue and voted against many others that would save billions without harming Social Security, SSDI and Medicare beneficiaries in the slightest.

While the rest of us realize that Coburn’s about as trustworthy on fiscal issues as Marie Antoinette or Bernard Madoff, this sort of blather about entitlements actually earns someone like him respect from fellow conservatives. If Oklahoma voters ever come to their senses and vote to send the miserable little pud packing, don’t be surprised if the Heritage Foundation has a position for him.

FOUR: “Barefoot paradise for a child…”

I still remember the day my classmates and I were brought into the auditorium of Jacob G. Smith Elementary School in Savannah and taught to sing a new Johnny Mercer song entitled “Georgia, Georgia.” Mercer had written it at the behest of the Georgia General Assembly, with the idea that it would become the new official state song. With all due props to the spectacularly gifted Mr. Mercer, “Georgia, Georgia” was essentially a monotonous paean to the supposedly transcendent joys of Georgia, a paean which left an uprooted young Floridian, me, rather unmoved. (State legislators apparently had misgivings of their own; the song was later rejected in favor of “Georgia On My Mind.”)

“Georgia, Georgia” has been going through my head, maddeningly, as I read the latest news from the Empire State of the South. Somewhere along the line, Mercer’s dreamy land of scuppernong and Spanish moss and honeysuckle became a land that progress and common sense forgot. If Sherman had known what damage conservatives would eventually do to Georgia, maybe he would have saved his matches.

Georgia Senate majority leader Chip Rogers hosted a training seminar at the state capitol for fellow Republicans back in October, to get them up to speed on the grave and gathering threat posed by the UN’s non-binding, largely forgotten, two-decade-old sustainability policy framework known as Agenda 21. Invitations to the event warned of:

“… a Socialist plan to change the way we live, eat, learn, and communicate to ‘save the earth.’”

The seminar included a video featuring a fellow named Field Searcy, who was actually kicked out of the Georgia Tea Party last spring for his noisy advocacy of birtherism and various Alex Jones conspiracy theories. Ever wanted to know what it’s like to leave Planet Earth for one minute and nine seconds? Just watch the video clip here. Searcy generously shared his special expertise with the Republican legislators:

So who is promoting this agenda…? Well, at the very top, the United Nations. A non-government organization called ICLEI, or Local Governments for Sustainability. Other NGOs are promoting this. Federal agencies.

They do that by a process known as the Delphi Technique. Now, the Delphi Technique was developed by the RAND Corporation during the Cold War as a mind-control technique.

Rogers has since resigned his seat to take a job with Georgia Public Broadcasting (!), while Searcy is still sending occasional transmissions from the alternate universe he inhabits. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that his understanding of what is correctly called the Delphi Method is laughably faulty. Continue reading Take Five (New Year’s Eve edition)

Sunday Talks, 10/28/12

On ABC’s “This Week,” Stephanie Cutter and Newt Gingrich will discuss the current state of the race as well as ABC’s newest polling numbers. The roundtable will include ABC News’ George Will, PBS’ “Washington Week” moderator and . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 10/28/12

Sunday Talks, 10/7/12

NBC’s “Meet the Press” will feature an interview with former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger about his new book, politics and the personal. The round table will feature Robert Gibbs, Hilary Rosen, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, and Chuck . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 10/7/12

Sunday Talks, 9/23/12

“Meet the Press” will feature Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and the political roundtable includes Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Dee Dee Myers, Joe Scarborough, Bay Buchanan and David Brooks in an episode largely . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 9/23/12

Slouching Towards Tampa (Things Fall Apart edition)

When the first installment of this column appeared last September, it was unclear how the contest for the GOP nomination would unfold, although it was already a certainty that it would be an eldritch spectacle. And so it has been.

The twenty-fifth and final edition of this column finds the triumphant yet stultified Romney, his rodentine running mate Paul Ryan, still-in-it-but-not-to-win-it challenger Ron Paul, 50,000 delegates, sundry other Republicans and media types, and a developing hurricane named Isaac all converging on Tampa.

Their playground awaits. For weeks, Tampa strip clubs have been gearing up for the convention with that yearning spirit of unfettered free enterprise that gets Republicans all hot and bothered:

One place is bringing in a stripper who looks like former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. There are major renovations taking place. And some nude clubs have already been giving potential customers a taste of the talent online…

Even the Gray Lady decided to raise her hemline and demonstrate some prurient interest:

… Tampa cannot shed its national reputation as the strip club capital of the country. “It’s not true,” said Joe Redner, the owner of the renowned Mons Venus and a man famous for fending off local attempts to close his club. “It would be nice, though.”

While the revelations in the Times piece aren’t really very revelatory, it’s always nice to have one’s intuition confirmed:

Angelina Spencer, the executive director of the Association of Club Executives, which serves as a trade association for strip clubs, said an informal survey of convention business in New York and Denver had determined that Republicans dropped more money at clubs, by far.

“Hands down, it was Republicans,” she said. “The average was $150 for Republicans and $50 for Democrats.”

Oddly, the Times piece somehow views these lopsided statistics as evidence of some sort of bipartisan naughtiness equivalency, but the paper was at least good enough to correct some numbers days after the article originally ran:

An article… about strip clubs in Tampa, Fla… misstated the estimated number of such businesses in the Tampa Bay area. There are about 30 such clubs, not 50. The article also included an invalid comparison between the number of strip clubs per capita in Tampa and Cincinnati. The Ohio city said it does not have strip clubs.

Not at all coincidentally, the Ohio city doesn’t host national political conventions. Cincinnati’s last convention, a Democratic one, was in 1880. Of course, back then nudity hadn’t been invented yet.

With the convention imminent, website Daily Bleach helpfully offers up the “The 10 Raunchiest Stripper Ads Welcoming Romney and the Republicans to Tampa” with handy links and examples of the graphics, along with a rundown of other sex-related doings:

In the past week alone, a slew of x-rated websites have announced the tawdry, hardcore erotic services they’re offering exclusively to convention attendees. These include VIP cabanas, Sarah Palin impersonators, champagne toasts, free homosexual steam rooms, “smelly foot worship” with a stunning dominatrix and something frighteningly named the “Santorum Stimulus Package.”

Added bonus: beats hell out of having to listen to a Bobby Jindal speech! But strip club owners and their workers aren’t the only busy folks in Tampa right now, as Hillsborough County Sherriff David Gee notes in his “open letter to the public“:

I am confident to tell the public that we are prepared to make it a successful RNC in Tampa…

To the agitators and anarchists who want only to bring a dark cloud to this event, let me be clear: criminal activity and civil disturbances will not be tolerated and enforcement actions will be swift…

There will be arrests. The question is how many. We are prepared to handle any number of RNC-related arrests through our Orient Road Jail. We are committed to due process and the rule of law regarding RNC-related arrests. We have procedures and policies in place to ensure an orderly and lawful process for anyone arrested…

Whence the dark cloud actually originates is going to take the sheriff by surprise, I think, but he’s certainly not kidding about that jail:

Sheriff David Gee has ordered the Orient Road Jail, a 1,700 bed prison in Tampa, emptied, relocating some inmates to another nearby prison and releasing others on bond. The entire facility has been transformed into a one-stop booking, detention, and bond-issuance center capable of handling large numbers of arrests…

Good times ahead, and all part of Tampa’s rich pageant, a pageant described in the title of Will Doig’s excellent Salon analysis as “America’s Hottest Mess.” Doig draws a direct and depressing linkage between the corrosive influence of the Teabagger mindset and the civic neglect and consequent dysfunctional nature of cities like Tampa. How can people afford to frequent strip clubs if they have to waste their money paying taxes?

… Tampa can only do so much thanks to a toxic combination of hostility toward government, revenue and collectively used amenities. What’s the matter with Tampa? The Republican conventioneers will get to see for themselves when they arrive.

One delegate, however, will not. For the first and last time ever, I stand with Paul LePage. His party does not:

Gov. Paul LePage will not attend the Republican National Convention next week after a GOP committee Friday overwhelmingly rejected Maine’s delegates to the convention in Tampa, Fla. The ousted delegates supported Texas Rep. Ron Paul…

Most of Maine delegates chosen at the state convention were Paul supporters. The RNC instead has chosen a slate of delegates split between the libertarian congressman and Mitt Romney…

“I have decided not to attend the 2012 Republican National Convention and instead focus on state business and spending some time with family,” said LePage in the statement distributed at midday Friday. “I made it clear, when the challenge was issued, that I felt the Maine delegates selected at the Maine Convention should be seated in Tampa. It is unfortunate that not all of these delegates will be seated.”

Another late scratch is LePage’s fellow rightwing asshat governor, Florida’s own Rick Scott:

Gov. Rick Scott has announced he will pull out of his Republican National Convention activities, including his speech scheduled for Monday night in Tampa…

The governor said it is a real possibility [Isaac] could have a Category 2 hurricane landfall on the Florida panhandle…

Scott said he and his family are still coming to Tampa, but he will be focused on the storm.

Thank goodness for that. Personally, I think seeing Scott being interviewed by Anderson Cooper as the two of them shout at each other over the wind and rain and struggle to keep their feet planted on Channelside pavement promises to be one of the week’s real highlights.

Remember, though, there’s more to a convention than just strippers and mass arrests. The committee responsible for crafting this year’s official Republican platform has been working hard to obliterate their party’s appeal to independent voters with a perfect balance of unabashed misogyny, fiscal recklessness, firearms fetishism, regressive social policy, and a whole truckload of anti-gay, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant bigotry. To nobody’s surprise, they’ve pulled it off: Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Things Fall Apart edition)

Sunday Talks, 8/26/12

On the eve of the Republican National Convention, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and his wife Ann sit for an exclusive interview for “Fox News Sunday” that leads the Sunday television talk shows anchored largely . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 8/26/12