Stormy Monday, 1/20/14

StormyMondayLast weekend, Chris Christie packed up his troubles in his old kit bag and went to Florida to shill for Rick Scott. As much as he’d probably prefer to stay there, his second inauguration is scheduled for this Tuesday, so we can assume he’ll be slinking back up the coast any minute now. Following his swearing – I mean swearing in, an inaugural ball will be held in the Grand Hall on Ellis Island.

After thoroughly screwing over West Virginia and its citizens, tax deadbeat and environmental menace Freedom Industries initiated Chapter 11 proceedings last Friday, effectively bringing to a halt a raft of lawsuits already filed against the company and others that were no doubt imminent, at least until a bankruptcy court reviews the situation. The water situation in a number of counties remains, well, fluid.

On Wednesday, Edgar Tamayo is scheduled to be killed by the State of Texas for the 1994 murder of a Houston cop. But Tamayo is a Mexican national, and Mexico alleges that he was not informed of his right to consular assistance following his arrest, contrary to a provision in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. And, as Amnesty International points out:

In 2008 a psychologist put Edgar Tamayo’s intellectual functioning in the “mild mental retardation” range, which would render his execution unconstitutional under US law.

Expect frantic last-minute legal and diplomatic maneuvers, almost inevitably followed by Tamayo becoming the 269th recipient of a lethal injection during Rick Perry’s tenure. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 1/20/14

Stormy Monday, 9/30/13

StormyMondayWith immigration reform, gun control, jobs, the economy and a host of other priorities ignored, mishandled or otherwise botched by the worst Congress of the modern era (and maybe ever), it’s time for Congressional Republicans to make an utter mess of government itself. This week the fools on the Hill try to beat the clock on a continuing resolution on spending, and may God help the United States of America.

Will the government still be fully operational at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday? Not if House Republicans and their fellow travelers in the Senate get their way. With the House GOP determined to make a continuing resolution contingent on the demise or delay of Obamacare, and the Senate’s Democratic majority determined to resist the effort, the eleventh-hour negotiations look suspiciously similar to the negotiations gone before, which you might remember have led precisely nowhere.

Even if, by some unanticipated miracle, a continuing resolution amenable to both chambers can be cobbled together, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew reckons that the nation will bash its head on the debt ceiling no later than October 17, another unnecessary fiscal crisis tailor-made for Republican foot-stomping intransigence and pre-adolescent brinkmanship. The President summed all this up the other day, neatly:

“No Congress before this one has ever, ever, in history been irresponsible enough to threaten default, to threaten an economic shutdown, to suggest America not pay its bills, just to try to blackmail a president into giving them some concessions on issues that have nothing to do with a budget.”

Also on Tuesday, the health insurance exchanges, a central component of Obamacare, are scheduled to open, and according to remarks by the President last Friday, they will: “Those marketplaces will be open for business on Tuesday, no matter what, even if there’s a government shutdown. That’s a done deal.” Continue reading Stormy Monday, 9/30/13

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 (States’ Blights edition)

Take-FiveONE: The Classless of 2010

When this column was launched in December 2010, many now-notorious Republican governors weren’t even sworn in, but within months of taking their oaths of office they began appearing regularly here, lewd exemplars of the very worst of what their party breezily describes as “ideas.” Soon, maddeningly, it seemed as though they’d been around forever, like syphilis or Larry King.

The big story in American politics post-Dubya is not about President Obama or about Washington’s tawdry doings and even tawdrier non-doings; it’s about what’s happening in the 30 governors’ mansions currently occupied by Republicans and in the legislatures where their conservative running dogs frantically attempt to dismantle half a century of hard-won progress.

Republicans in DC have one arrow in their quiver – stubborn obstructionism – but their state-level colleagues have two: not only do they stall and subvert any and all efforts by Democrats to do much of anything, they actually manage to enshrine their own wretched ideas into law. Bad law. The freshman Republican governors of the “classless of 2010″ – along with their elder GOP peers – have had a larger impact on people’s lives than this or any President could ever hope to have, and that impact has been dire. At the state level, the Republican Party’s War on Damn Near Everyone has inflicted heavy casualties.

This year and next, 38 states will hold elections for governor, and the results will be every bit as important as the results of the 2014 House and Senate elections. Women’s rights, workers’ rights, voting rights, gay rights, all rights remain at risk as long as Republicans are allowed to control anything.

TWO: Rick-Rolled

Either Rick Perry has finally run out of ideas for screwing over Texas or he’s just setting his sights on screwing over something even bigger, like the entire country. Perry announced recently that he won’t seek another gubernatorial term, but there’s lots of in-progress screwing over to complete before he saddles up, rides off into the sunset, and leaves the whole shambling mess to his unfortunate successor.

Perry’s announcement was originally scheduled to be made in June but was delayed due to some of that aforementioned screwing over, in this case involving draconian restrictions on reproductive rights for women. Consistent with most legislation passed during Perry’s tenure, some of the ramifications of the bill can scarcely be guessed at now and the extent of the damage to the body politic can’t be fully assessed until the legislation has metastasized, but metastasize it surely will.

After state Senator Wendy Davis successfully filibustered SB 5, ol’ Rick just went right ahead and convened his darn self a special session of the Legislature and got the bill passed. He explained his determination simply, confirming yet again that the words “Rick Perry” and “simple” have an almost magnetic mutual attraction:

“Texas is a place where we defend life.”

The 261 folks executed on Perry’s watch might take umbrage at the statement, but them’s the breaks if you insist on being an evil-doer in a Rick-rolled state. Of course, restricting women’s rights isn’t the only thing the lame duck governor has on the docket. Almost immediately after the Supreme Court’s transparently political body blow to the Voting Rights Act, the Perry regime took pains to crow – uh, announce that it will enforce photo ID provisions, provisions previously halted by a federal court as discriminatory against minority voters.

In a line from his retirement announcement aimed at friends and supporters, Perry said:

In our time together, we have made the most of this unique opportunity to shape the future of Texas.

That they have, it’s true. And despite the relief millions of Texans will feel on seeing the east end of a westbound Rick Perry, they still have 18 more months to wait, heartsick, while he and his cronies continue to make the most of this unique opportunity. At which point those Texans will have a chance to start repairing the damage by electing a Democrat to replace him, and giving that Democrat a Legislature dominated by Democrats. Implausible? Maybe, but George Bush the Lesser being succeeded in Austin by someone even worse seemed implausible too, 12 years ago.

For a superb, though far from comprehensive, roundup of the damage Perry had done to Texas and Texans, go here.

THREE: Three of a Kind

Perry isn’t the only far-right gubernatorial goober to institutionalize rolling back women’s rights. In fact, the practice is spreading across state lines faster than this summer’s wildfires.

The execrable Scott Walker signed a bill recently that prevents a doctor from performing abortions unless said doctor has admitting privileges at a “local” hospital, and mandates – another Republican fave rave – that women seeking an abortion undergo the scarlet-letter indignity of a medically unnecessary ultrasound. Lawsuits filed by two Wisconsin abortion providers are pending. Continue reading Take Five (States’ Blights edition)

Stormy Monday, 7/8/13

If you don’t feel like doing something interesting with your Monday, like clipping your toenails or trying to teach your goldfish to roll over, watch for Rick Perry’s announcement about his “exciting future plans.” Will he declare his intention to run for a fourth term as Texas Governor? Or has he finally remembered the third federal government department he wants to shut down, clearing the way for another presidential run in 2016?

With none other than George Walker Bush urging Congress to get comprehensive immigration reform done, I now have to reassess my own enthusiasm for it. And don’t even get me started on the macabre irony of Bush uttering the words: “It’s very important to fix a broken system…”

Foreshadowing the probable fate of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill, Rep. Michael McCaul claimed in an interview this morning that Americans “don’t want a comprehensive bill like what we saw with Obamacare.” How he knows this, he didn’t say. Maybe he’ll explain it after he and his House Republican colleagues get together behind closed doors midweek to discuss how they’re going to derail reform.

Speaking of Obamacare, if you’re in Virginia or Ohio, watch for this week’s rollout of new TV ads (funded by the infamous America-hating Brothers Koch) designed to convince you that it sucks. The ads will later appear in other states. If the campaign is successful, watch for future Koch-financed commercials aimed at making you doubt and/or despise kittens, electricity and oxygen.

Secretary of State John Kerry returns to Israel later in the week to continue efforts to broker direct talks between that nation and the Palestinians. After last week’s flap about the State Department first denying then later admitting that Kerry spent time aboard his yacht in Nantucket as Egypt’s government was being overthrown, the Secretary no doubt craves the peace and tranquility that have always been hallmarks of the Middle East. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 7/8/13

Take Five (Woe Is Us edition)

ONE: ZOMG? Really?

Heavens to Betsy Ross! Another Obama Administration… uh… scandal. The NSA has been metadata harvesting. Of course, they’ve been doing so for years, with Congressional oversight and sanction of the FISA court, both a result of restrictions placed on executive branch power by a bipartisan legislative consensus after unlawful abuse by the Bush (mis)Administration. Still, this is totally outrageous, yes?

Well, no. It’s the latest flimsy “scandal” the corporate media and its leering Republican friends want us to believe the Obama White House is “mired in” or “overwhelmed by,” with an added fillip of racy intrigue provided by a mysterious young NSA contractor whose motives, biography and even current whereabouts all remain tantalizingly shadowy.

The applicable law and degree of oversight both need substantial improvement. Perhaps that would have already happened had so many of us on the left not essentially gone silent about this until these recent “revelations” (which so far have been in no meaningful way revelatory). An honest national dialogue about surveillance and a host of other “War on Terror” issues is years overdue. Unfortunately, the odds seem stacked against it.

For starters, it would have to exclude a Congress plainly not up to the task of reform. Worse, there’s a panoply of untrustworthy interests out there whose fondest desire is to gin up issues like this into improbably grave and gathering threats to the Republic itself.

Thus the hallelujah chorus of impeachment-starved Republicans, paranoid Teabaggers and Paulite nincompoops is now accompanied by the off-key descant of ostensibly progressive Obama “critics” who, implausibly, fancy themselves his base and routinely mistake being unreasoning hotheads for being principled firebrands.

Worse still, “discussion” of pretty much every legitimate issue nowadays – like the very legitimate issue of balancing domestic security with civil liberties – ends up spun into something apocalyptic, with strenuous blogospheric adjectives like “shocking” or “Orwellian” or “authoritarian” or “chilling” breezily deployed on the way to proving, one more tiresome time, that Mike Godwin is a genius.

Worst of all – or simply saddest – the histrionic, helium-pitched high dudgeon is an inadvertent but unmistakable admission by its subscribers of an attention deficit that stretches back through some or all of the past decade, at a minimum. So I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for an honest national dialogue on this.

As I’ve noted before, the real scandal is that this is the sort of thing that now passes for a scandal. A few years back, we were all congratulating ourselves about having “become the media.” Ironically, in some not at all positive ways, we truly have.

TWO: FFS Coalition

Meanwhile, on Planet Not Earth, Smilin’ Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition recently concluded its fourth annual “Road to Majority” conference, placating hardcore Republicans who believe the Values Voter Summit and CPAC just don’t provide enough flat-out ignorance, offensive oratory and general communitarian buffoonery every year. Unsurprisingly, the FFC has declared the event “a Success!”

And so it was, if the intention was to gather in one venue the nation’s worst and dimmest, spoon-feed credulous attendees with a ton of high-cholesterol cant, showcase the impressive range of horrendous ideas Republicans embrace, and – best of all – provide the rest of us with some laughs. The laughs began with the speaker roster, which included luminaries like – well, I’ll just let the Coalition’s own event recap speak for itself:

… the three day event…  kicked off with a luncheon featuring Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul,  Sen. Ron Johnson, and Sen. Mike Lee.

Our general sessions included speeches from Sarah Palin, Rep. Paul Ryan, Gov. Jeb Bush, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Gov. Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rick Santorum, and many more!  At the Patriot Awards Gala Banquet, we recognized Pat Robertson with the Winston Churchill Lifetime Achievement Award, and heard from speakers such as Donald Trump, Rep. Scott Rigell, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Rep. Randy Forbes, and special entertainment by Grammy & DOVE Award winning artist Sandi Patty!

When it comes to volume, Ms. Patty’s supple four-octave voice had nothing on the yawping succession of gum-flapping know-nothings who serially seized the podium to offer up cloying patriotic clichés and half-digested Randian roughage.

Newly risen from the dead but still lacking anything approximating charisma, Mark Sanford had a whole lot of stuff to say about government spending, all of it as simpleminded and desolately pointless as if he were reading it off the back of a cereal box:

“Historically, bad things have happened when you spend too much… and I think it’s a moral issue, because it’s the ultimate case of taxation without representation when you have systematically at a government level basically taking from young to afford benefits to old…

“We are at a tipping point the likes of which we have never seen…”

Why, it’s enough to make a principled conservative run screaming for the Appalachian Trail, unless said conservative just mustered up enough gullible poltroons to reward him with another taxpayer-funded gig working for the government he and his fellow Republicans want us to believe they hate so danged much. In which case you can count on him to go away about the same time venereal disease does. Sanford did, however, get one thing right:

“… in many ways I recognize the ways in which I am unworthy of offering my opinion or my perspective on a whole host of things given my failures in 2009.”

Those last five words were completely redundant, of course.

As most such conservative gatherings do, this one featured a scary, washed-up celebrity. With Victoria Jackson, Ted Nugent and Chuck Norris seemingly unavailable, the role went to John Ratzenberger, who loudly requested that a little of Allen West’s, uh, essence be distributed in all 50 states, and presumably in Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa, as well:

“We should really take something from his gene pool and put it everywhere across this great country… [a] real American hero, my friend, Allen West.”

Herman Cain was also there, and his fact-free musings actually made Sanford’s sound statesmanlike by comparison:

“This train is running full speed down the tracks towards socialism and towards communism,” he told the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “Yes, I said it.”

Yes, he said it. Actually, he says it a lot, mostly when he’s earning some absurd fee to do so. Speaking of absurdity, he also offered up this curious observation:

“After I dropped out of the presidential race because of the viciousness of the media, they thought I was going to be quiet.”

Now, that’s odd. I thought he dropped out because he considers women chattel and couldn’t keep his creepy hands off of them, but I guess that’s something I read in the commie press. No, it seems that the would-be commander-in-chief was forced out of the race because Rachel Maddow and EJ Dionne were being mean to him.

Cain wasn’t the only laughingstock former presidential wannabe at the conference. Rick Perry was there, sharing his inner Rick Perry:

“I woke up the morning after the election of 2012 and was feeling a bit humbled…It was really clear that the case we made as conservatives and, frankly, some of us as candidates, we didn’t move the majority of people in this country…

“I’ve learned a little bit about humility, particularly on national television.  God hasn’t called the perfect to go into public service. He’s called people like you and me. ”

As if to underscore the point, he also said this about (I think) Benghazi:

I fear where we’ve come to in America, where our administration won’t make one phone call to save our men and women in an embassy in Lebanon…”

Silly Rick! Everyone knows Lebanon is a city in Pennsylvania. But Perry, Cain, Sanford and all the other addlepated flat-earthers who spoke were simply prelude to the headliner, that indisputably perfect exemplar of utter know-nothingness, Sarah Palin, who brought a whole steamer trunk full of ludicrous one-liners down from Wasilla. On American intervention in Syria:

“Until we have a commander in chief who knows what he is doing….let Allah sort it out!”

On the Brothers Tsarnaev, with a side order of suddenly-fashionable NSA poutrage:

“Our government spied on every single one of your phone calls but it couldn’t find two pot smoking dead-beat Bostonians with a hotline to terrorist central in Chechnya. Really?”

She also revisited her moth-eaten “death panels” calumny while discussing Obamacare, joked about her own fertility in a swipe at Jeb Bush’s “Road to Majority” comment on fertile immigrants, and in an another apparent swipe – this one at Michelle Obama’s reaction to the boorish Ellen Sturtz – said this:

“If there’s any protesters here, speak now or forever hold your peace…because facing the protesters, facing the critics, that’s something I do well…”

Usually by quitting. Continue reading Take Five (Woe Is Us edition)

Take Five (Let's Play Two edition)

ONE: Boom Shakalaka

Baseball is back, and so is a freshly redoubled effort on the part of the Texas Rangers to kill their fans. With food.

2013 is the sophomore year for the Boomstick, a two-foot hot dog smothered in onions, nacho cheese, chili and jalapenos, all heaped on a 22-inch potato bun. The Boomstick, named for the bat of outfielder Nelson Cruz, will set you back $26 at Rangers Ballpark.

These and other food items at the stadium are served up by Delaware North, a company I saluted previously for donating 8,000 pounds of food to Charlotte-area food banks and charities last September, food originally prepared for the President’s nomination acceptance speech at Bank of America Stadium before the event was moved to TWC Arena. The Boomstick generated half a million in sales last season, and this year the dog even gets its own merchandise line, along with some comparably heavy-duty menu companions:

The Boomstick will be joined by the “Totally Rossome” Boomstick ($32), named after Rangers relief pitcher Robbie Ross, which is smothered with smoked brisket, fresh pico, sour cream and Doritos chips. Also on the menu is a whopping 24-ounce bacon burger ($26), a 24-inch sausage ($26), a 24-inch pretzel ($13) and a 24-inch quesadilla ($26) covered with brisket and served on a bed of nacho cheese Doritos.

Last July, in honor of National Hot Dog Month, Delaware North made the gargantuan wiener available for a limited time at six other MLB stadiums. Marketed as the Giant Slugger, it wowed fans of the Padres, White Sox, Cardinals, Twins, Reds and Brewers. Fortunately, the Kansas City Royals (whose food services are provided by The Bigelow Companies) have no equivalent product; they’re having a hard enough time with ordinary hot dogs. The Missouri Court of Appeals recently overturned a frankfurter-related lower court verdict involving the club:

The Kansas City Royals must face a lawsuit from a fan who was hit in the eye by a hot dog thrown by the team mascot, a Missouri appeals court ruled.

John C. Coomer went to a Royals baseball game in September 2009 with his father. After the third inning, the team’s crown-topped lion mascot, “Sluggerrr,” came out for the Hot Dog Launch.

Twenty to 30 hot dogs are thrown to fans or launched from an air gun in the spectacle.

Coomer testified that he while he was looking at the scoreboard, a hot dog hit him in the face, knocking off his hat.

Two days later, Coomer was diagnosed with a detached retina. He underwent surgery for that and again for a cataract, and now has an artificial lens in that eye. He sued the team for negligence and battery in 2010.

Yet whatever the hazards, fans’ love affair with the tube steak looks to remain ardent, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council:

… baseball fans will consume [an estimated] 20,421,361 hot dogs over the course of the 2013 season. That’s enough hot dogs to round the bases 28,113 times. It’s also enough to feed all 56,000 fans at Dodger Stadium, Major League Baseball’s largest stadium, for 361 straight home games.

TWO: Gun Shysters

Turning from guns that fire hot dogs to ones that fire bullets, Colorado has been ground zero in the renewed struggle for meaningful gun control. While recent measures passed there are actually pretty feeble, they’ve been sufficient to provoke both gun-huggers and companies that exist to cater to them into some dismayingly childish behavior:

Michael Bane, a producer for The Outdoor Channel, announced he will no longer film his four shows in Colorado, and hunters are joining the protests. It’s reportedly a small number, but growing.

Somehow, against all odds, I believe Colorado will survive Bane taking his creepy, paranoid shows elsewhere, and – bonus! – animals left alone by boycotting hunters will survive too. Democrats, on the other hand, might want to keep their eyes open and their heads down if Dudley Brown, head honcho of a group called Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, is anywhere nearby:

Brown complains that universal background checks are just a step toward identifying gun owners so the government can seize their weapons, and he calls the 15-round limit on ammunition magazines arbitrary. He’s promising political payback in next year’s election that could cost Colorado Democrats their majorities.

“I liken it to the proverbial hunting season,” Brown says. “We tell gun owners, ‘There’s a time to hunt deer. And the next election is the time to hunt Democrats.’ “

Meanwhile, the management team of Magpul Industries (makers of 30-round magazines, buttstocks, shotgun accessories, semi-rigid iPhone cases offering “basic protection in the field,” and other assorted items no free society should be without) are about to pull their operations out of the state, their corporate feelings having been hurt by Colorado’s insistence on background checks and a ban on magazines holding more than 15 rounds:

Magpul employs 200 people directly, ranging from basic assembly workers to product designers and other professionals specializing in weapons-related components…

Like any successful mid-sized business, Magpul nurtures many other businesses, or did until it decided to throw its little corporate tantrum:

As much as possible, the company tries to contract with Colorado vendors, who represent about 90 percent of its supply chain… Those suppliers received about $46 million last year from Magpul, with the company projecting that number to reach $85 million for 2013…

Personally, I project that the company’s projection is marinated in bullcrap, but there’s no doubt that the disappearance of $46 million in revenues to Magpul suppliers is going to hurt.

Texas, Alabama, West Virginia and Alaska are already courting Magpul. Another company, HiViz Shooting Systems, makers of “light-gathering sights, recoil pads and accessories,” announced that it too is cutting and running from the imminent danger of a little more civilization encroaching on Colorado:

“We cannot in clear conscience support with our taxes a state that has proven through recent legislation a willingness to infringe upon the constitutional rights of our consumer base,” HiViz President and CEO Phillip Howe said in a news release.

As of this writing, I’m still trying to find the Constitution’s guarantee of unrestricted access to recoil pads and light-gathering sights, never mind all the goddamned guns. Maybe I should ask Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, a “Democrat” who:

…hinted on Tuesday that he would oppose a Democratic initiative to expand background checks to all gun purchases, but reiterated his support for an NRA-backed measure that would permit individuals deemed mentally ill or incompetent to purchase firearms more freely.

Why, you ask?

“You know, I’m a Second Amendment guy, everybody knows that…”

Sure thing. I’m a Second Amendment guy too, Senator. I’ve always believed that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state. Continue reading Take Five (Let’s Play Two 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 (Did You Hear His Middle Name's Hussein edition)

ONE: Q – What’s the difference between the Republican Party and a flat earth society? A – It’s a trick question. There is no difference.

With a second Obama term looking more and more assured, Republicans across the nation are hurrying to make complete dicks of themselves about it, blathering shrilly about everything from the ascendancy of an Obama-nurtured caliphate, to fraudulent electronic birth and Selective Service records, to everybody’s guns being confiscated, to conservatives being thrown into FEMA concentration camps, to Michelle Obama destroying America’s youth with healthy food, to Stalinist death panels for granny, to [insert dimwitted, hysterical conspiracy theory here].

In other words, all the same stale crap we’ve been hearing for four years, just louder and more urgent than usual.

Take Alabama Republican Party chair Bill Armistead, for example. Armistead, eager to avoid talking about, you know, policy and stuff, put on his film critic hat for a gathering of the Eastern Shore Republican Women last week:

Armistead suggested that audience members see the movie ’2016: Obama’s America,’ a documentary by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza that is critical of the president.

“If you haven’t seen it, you should,” he said. “But I’m going to tell you about another movie. The name of it is ‘Dreams From My Real Father.’ That is absolutely frightening. I’ve seen it. I verified that it is factual, all of it. People can determine.”

The movie… claims that Obama’s real father is Frank Marshall Davis, an American labor activist and organizer for the Communist Party USA.

Understandably, Armistead didn’t detail how he went about his verification. In the courtly Deep South, it’s still considered bad manners to mention rummaging around in your own ass to a roomful of ladies, especially Republican ones.

While Armistead dips a toe into irrationality, David Howard, a Republican member of the Montana Legislature, is pretty near up to his uvula in it. Kudos to Don Pogreba’s superb blog Intelligent Discontent for shining a cold light on Howard’s Monday Facebook post:

If we lose this election the Secular Socialist Democrats will place two more secular anti-American Justices on the Supreme Court and kill America from within…

This could force American Patriots into a Civil war to regain our freedoms. Where we won’t be able to worry about being offended by what some people in a political party do or don’t do!

Yeah, don’t you just hate it when that happens? And if an impending Civil War doesn’t scare you, no problem. Howard, who calls himself a “principled conservative,” has plenty more kindling to set his hair – and, he no doubt hopes, yours – on fire. It’s a veritable Bonfire of the Inanities. Herewith, some verbatim excerpts from his recent posts:

September 12:

In the Islamic world, if you are not Muslim, and if they don’t fear you, they can justify killing you through their Religion of Hate!

They killed our Ambassador because they don’t respect or fear America. The reason, we have a bend over President, who hates Americas imposing excellence and wants America to be a weak secondary Country.

Obama’s intolerance for America’s excellence is weakening America, and has enabled the hate monger Muslims to kill our Ambassador.

We live in a dangerous world, an eye, for an eye world. Therefore, we have to be both the most benevolent Country but when attacked, we have to be the Country that will take no shit off of anyone.

September 14:

Planned Parenthood should be called Planned Infanticide! This is the culture of death, supported by the secular socialist Democrats, run by President Obama!

September 19:

The Press is the marketing arm of the secular socialist democRATs. The SSD’s

September 22:

The definition of Madness is Extreme folly! That describes the Obama’s “Sorry they had to kill Americans ad on Pakistani television”. I would call it an anti-American Insanity!

September 23:

The question begs to be asked, are Christian Pastor’s today speaking Christ’s truth in the Public Square or have they played into the hands of Satan and rationalized themselves into committing the sin of silence that God warned Ezekiel against…

Yes pastor’s do your God given duty: Speak the truth from the pulpit.

September 26:

This morning the Muslim Brotherhood warned the United States that if the United States continued meddling in Egypt , Libya , and other potential hot spots in the Middle East, they intend to cut off America’s supply of 7-11 and Motel 6 managers. If this action does not yield sufficient results, cab drivers will be next, followed by Dell, AT&T and AOL customer service reps.

Finally, if all else fails, they have threatened not to send us anymore presidents either. It’s gonna get ugly, people

September 26:

MONTANA’S GOVERNMENT IS LIKE A KILLERING AND EATING IT’S HARD WORKING CITIZENS!

You don’t even want to know what some of the comments on these posts are like, although you can probably guess. Howard has all kinds of support in Stillwater County and in the broader wrongosphere, people who actually cheer for his loathsome opinions and revolting bigotry. Pogreba somberly notes that Howard is:

… a leader of the Stillwater County Republicans, and the Chair of the House Human Services Committee. He’s also a member of the Judiciary, Agriculture, and Ethics Committee.

TWO: Hungry for Knowledge

David Howard wasn’t the only politician active on Facebook recently. Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix was too, and deserves great praise:

This week I’ll join staff and board members from the Arizona Community Action Association (ACAA), the Valley of the Sun United Way and others in the community in the weeklong SNAP Experience when we’ll limit total food purchases to the weekly budget of a typical SNAP participant:  $4.16 a day.  That’s about $29 a week for one person and $97 a week for a family of four…

I’ll be adding to this post daily with a diary entry of my experience…

Day 1

In thinking about this exercise, I did some homework.  In July of this year, there were 1.1 million Arizonans on SNAP, about twice as many as there were before the downturn in 2007… 1 in 4 Arizona kids are food insecure, and 1 in 5 households in Arizona struggled to put food on the table last year. The Phoenix metro area is ranked the 34th worst, in terms of hunger- out of the 100 largest metro areas.  We’ve got a lot of families fighting to get by here…

Day 3

I wonder how folks with health problems get by on SNAP.  An individual with diabetes has got to stay away from too many simple carbs, and have protein at every meal to maintain level blood sugar.  By far the cheapest food items are potatoes, noodles, tortillas and white bread…

Day 5

Identifying, in a concrete way, with struggling families is an important exercise for any leader. By walking in the shoes of those who depend on the SNAP program, I certainly feel like I’ve gained critical perspective as a policymaker.  From a broader perspective, I’m starting to think about all the other challenges families on food stamps (SNAP) must face at the same time they are stretching their food benefit. Census data in 2010 showed Arizona had the second highest poverty rate in the nation with 21.2% of its citizens living in poverty. The national figure was 14.3 percent. We’ve improved since then, but we’re still in the 10-poorest states category.  Worse, women raising children alone here aren’t doing well.  More than 45% of mothers raising children by themselves are in poverty…

Stanton, you won’t be surprised to learn, is a Democrat, and despite the tough times Democrats have been experiencing in Arizona for, well, forever, I’m sensing that the tide could finally be turning. The Obama campaign might be thinking the same thing:

Signaling confidence, Obama’s team is considering competing in Arizona.

Obama looked at competing in Arizona in 2008, but decided against it because of the support there for home state Sen. John McCain, the GOP nominee. Obama still won 45 percent of the vote.

This year, Obama’s team talked early on about running in Arizona, which offers 11 electoral votes, but it never did. Now, with an internal Democratic poll showing Obama narrowly leading Romney, Obama’s team might make a play for the state that has seen a 160,000 increase in voter registrations by Democratic-leaning Hispanics over the past four years.

THREE: Not Lovin’ It

I don’t mind admitting that the plastic-headed Burger King from the Burger King commercials always scared the hell out of me, and the fast food chain’s decision last year to retire the character was a great relief. Imagine my horror, then, when I learned that the polyethylene potentate has been spotted again, skulking around Rome, Georgia:

Police were called to a local McDonald’s in relation to a disturbance caused by a man dressed as the Burger King…

Police stated that, upon his arrival, the Burger King mascot reportedly began to hand out free hamburgers to customers, and stopped to take pictures with several children.

Officers were additionally told that one child ran away from the man in fear…

I sympathize, kid. So just what prompted the maleficent monarch’s appearance at the Golden Arches? Old scores to be settled? Territorial conquest? Hatred of clowns? Apparently none of the above:

The McDonald’s manager told authorities she had approached the unidentified man before calling police. When asked what he was doing, the man allegedly told the manager he was collecting money for charity…

Before leaving in his white Acura, the man removed his mask in view of the manager, the paper learned. She then described him as a white, middle-aged man with dark hair, according to the report.

That wasn’t the only peculiar incident in what was a non-banner week for McDonald’s. A patron in Oregon took the “problem customer” archetype to a whole new, scary level:

A Gresham man was arrested Sunday afternoon after allegedly throwing soda in a McDonald’s manager’s face and smashing a cash register after a dispute over onions on his quarter pounder burger…

According to Gresham Police reports, [Jayme John] Leon went to the McDonald’s at 2231 N.E. 181st Ave. late Sunday afternoon and ordered a quarter pounder without onions, then left the restaurant. When he got home he said he found onions on the burger. He called McDonald’s, where an employee said the restaurant would refund his money and give him a new burger.

However, when he arrived at the McDonald’s at 4:48 p.m., he didn’t have the burger, only the drink he ordered.

“Since he ate the quarter pounder, McDonald’s would not refund his money, sending Mr. Leon into a McFury,” said Sgt. Claudio Grandjean, Gresham Police spokesman.

Sarge, if your law enforcement gig doesn’t work out, you might think about a career in McMarketing. The Jayme John Leons out there need to be brought back into the fold somehow, lest they end up at Burger King or, worse, having Burger King come to them. Continue reading Take Five (Did You Hear His Middle Name’s Hussein edition)

Sunday Talks, 6/24/12

This week sees a triple treat of Darryl Issa. Oh goody…..

The nation’s growing Hispanic vote and the House investigation of the Fast and Furious gunwalking operation top the lineups for this Sunday’s television talk shows, with . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 6/24/12