Take Five (100th edition)

Take-FiveONE: It’s All Over Now, Sacre Bleu

The first edition of this column, three years ago today, began with an item about Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics for “The Times They Are A-Changin’” selling for $422,500. Last week, the Stratocaster Dylan (possibly) played at the ’65 Newport Folk Festival fetched $965,000, a world record auction price for a guitar. The previous record was for another Strat, formerly belonging to Eric Clapton, which sold at auction in 2004 for $959,500.

The guitar was sold by a New Jersey woman named Dawn Peterson, whose father, Victor Quinto, had been a pilot employed by Dylan’s then-manager Albert Grossman. Quinto claimed the Strat and two other guitars were left on his plane, and that his attempts to contact Grossman about them got no response. After the guitar was authenticated in 2011 by experts from PBS’ History Detectives, Dylan initiated legal proceedings (since settled) to get it back, although he disputed its Newport connection:

“Bob has possession of the electric guitar he played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965,” his attorney, Orin Snyder, said in a statement. “He did own several other Stratocaster guitars that were stolen from him around that time, as were some handwritten lyrics.”

Dylan is now enmeshed in legal proceedings of a different sort, having been charged in France with “public insult and inciting hate.” The charge stems from comments he made in a 2012 interview, comments that did not sit well with the Council of Croats in France:

“If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.”

The Council of Croats is demanding that Dylan “present an apology to the Croatian people.” The charge was filed a couple of days prior to Dylan becoming an Officier of the Légion d’Honneur.

TWO: The Liar Next Time

Rand Paul says he’s “seriously thinking” about a presidential run. His wife doesn’t want him to do it, but his father thinks he “probably will.” And, you know, why the hell not? Last time around, Republicans tried hard to convince the nation that the likes of Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, the aforementioned Ron Paul, and – most outlandishly – Mitt Romney were actually suitable candidates for the Oval Office. Other than that improbable thatch of pubic hair on his head, Rand Paul’s not significantly worse or weirder than any of them. Or is he?

Paul already has a surefire plan to get unemployed Americans back to work. He wants to cut off their benefits:

“When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy,” he said on Fox News Sunday. If the unemployed stopped receiving benefits sooner, they would be back to work sooner, he suggested.

Wow! It’s genius, I tells ya, and it’s the kind of approach that could be extended to all sorts of issues. Cut SNAP benefits and people will immediately hunt their own meat and grow their own crops. Get rid of Medicare and the elderly won’t get sick anymore. Cut education funding and we’ll reap a generation of self-taught geniuses. Cut police budgets and crime will be a thing of the past.

Give Rand Paul the presidency and watch the country circle the drain. Continue reading Take Five (100th edition)

An Open Letter to Rick Santorum (and His Fellow Convenient Christians)

nance2Re your recent remarks on CNN’s State of the Nation:

“I also discussed how our First Amendment rights are being impacted by ObamaCare. The idea that the First Amendment stops when you walk out of a church, that it doesn’t have anything to do with how you live the rest of your life, I don’t know very many people of faith that believe their religion ends with just worship. It ends in how you practice and live that faith. And now what President Obama is saying, ‘No, once you step outside of that church door, I get to impose my values on you. Your religious values don’t matter anymore. It’s my values that I can impose on you.’ I don’t think that’s what the First Amendment stands for…”

Apparently you have absolutely no understanding of how the First Amendment works. It guarantees your right to practice the faith of your choosing; it does not allow you to impose your faith on others. The ACA offers access to affordable healthcare; it imposes no values, nor does it require anyone to do anything contrary to their religious beliefs. It’s simple, Ricky: if using birth control is against your faith, you are free not to use it. If abortion is contrary to your religious beliefs, you are free not to have one.

But there is something more to your statement, other than your usual habit of opening your mouth and making an idiot of yourself, and it is this:

Sadly, our political system has been inundated with people like yourself, who practice the Christianity of Convenience. They tout their devotion to the teachings of Christ while on the campaign trail, but discard those same teachings the minute they are in office. They brag endlessly about their religious principles, but once in a position to put those principles into action, they toss them aside as a hindrance to the furtherance of their own political careers.

If all of the politicians who claim to be True Christians acted as such beyond the church door, imagine the nation we could be living in.

True Christians take Christ’s admonitions to care for the sick, feed the hungry, and shelter the homeless, to heart. If those in power who claim to be Christians adhered to the beliefs they profess to hold dear, we would have more homeless shelters per capita than any nation on earth – instead of more prisons. We would have universal healthcare available to all – instead of only those of financial means. Our welfare system and all other social safety net programs would be fully funded – instead of being downsized and gutted.

True Christians don’t dehumanize the down-and-out by labeling them as “welfare queens” whose only intent is gaming the system. They don’t ignore the plight of the homeless by driving them out of their cities. They don’t classify the unemployed as lazy moochers looking for a free ride on the taxpayers’ dime. And they certainly don’t hold out access to healthcare as a privilege intended for some, while the less fortunate are left to sicken and die.

If True Christians raised their voices during elections, those seeking office would tell the truth about themselves, instead of fabricating lies about their political opponents. The fairness of our elections would be above reproach, because suppressing the votes of any citizen, or tampering with vote-counting or voting districts, would be something no True Christian would countenance, no less actively engage in.

True Christians acknowledge their responsibilities when it comes to the stewardship of the planet and its resources. They would never vote in favor of corporations being free to rape the earth for profit, or to endanger our environment for the sake of enriching themselves and their shareholders.

True Christians take the Commandments seriously (does “Thou Shalt Not Kill” ring a bell?) and, as a result, would never lobby against gun control laws that would keep firearms out of the hands of those likely to use them to harm or kill, despite whatever campaign donations might be promised by those who profit from the sale of those firearms. They would never align themselves with those who condone war-for-profit, torture, or false imprisonment, and would fight tirelessly to put an end to capital punishment across the board.

True Christians would publicly and vociferously denounce those who threaten to harm the president, or incite violent action against those who they disagree with politically. They would use their access to the media to ensure that hate-mongers like Rush Limbaugh were so thoroughly disgraced as to be unable to peddle their bigotry over the public airwaves ever again.

Those in need after a natural disaster like Katrina or Sandy would be overwhelmed with available aid, because no True Christian would hesitate to do unto others as they would have done for themselves in the same circumstances. If all of those currently in office who held themselves out as Christians actually walked the walk instead of just talking the talk, financial aid to those in need would not be debated; it would be a given. Continue reading An Open Letter to Rick Santorum (and His Fellow Convenient Christians)

Stormy Monday, 11/11/13

StormyMondayIf you’re reading this, either the fragments of the Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer didn’t fall on you or you have an admirably hard head. The European Space Agency satellite ran out of fuel on October 21 and was predicted to crash late Sunday or early Monday. The ESA expects it to break up at an altitude of about 50 miles, resulting in a spray of debris centered over… well, they don’t really know.

If I got to choose a location for GOCE’s crash landing, I’d be tempted to pick room 2154 in the Rayburn House Office Building. Barring such celestial fallout, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will use the room Wednesday morning for yet another of what its chair, Darrell Issa, likes to refer to as “hearings” into the Affordable Care Act. (Far from being exercises in hearing, the proceedings have to date generally resembled the shambolic tribunal of orangutans convened to decide Charlton Heston’s fate in Planet of the Apes.)

To that end, Issa has subpoenaed Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer for the Obama Administration, to appear. Despite having nothing much to do – other than, oh, directing the repair and remediation of healthcare.gov, the site whose technical issues have caused such consternation to Issa and so many others who were completely opposed to Obamacare from the get-go – Park so far shows no sign of complying with the subpoena. It goes without saying that we haven’t heard the last of this, because of course when it comes to Darrell Issa, there is no last of this. Ever.

Speaking of never ending, Rick Santorum heads to Des Moines on Monday, ostensibly to shill for the forthcoming movie A Christmas Candle, produced by his new family-friendly film venture, EchoLight Studios. The fact that the Iowa caucuses remain the first noteworthy date on the presidential electoral calendar is, of course, a coincidence so remarkable that it’s almost a Christmas miracle. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 11/11/13

“Frothy Mixture of Fecal Matter” Strikes Again

nance2Well, Lil’ Ricky, I am in receipt of your latest “Patriot Voices” newsletter – and, as always, my mind is boggled (although never surprised) by your blatant self-serving hypocrisy.

“Patriot Voices has always stood up for the traditional values that made America strong and great. But that’s not enough. We have to stand up to what Hollywood entertainment is peddling to the country.”

Well, who’da thunk it! You get a job with a movie production company, and you’re now deeply concerned about the evil-doers in Hollywood. But, as they say, wait – there’s more:

“While the challenging economy is taking its toll on our country, the moral decay and lack of decent quality entertainment is every bit as great a danger.”

Let me ‘splain something to you, Lil’ Ricky (and as always, don’t be ashamed to ask for help with the big words that you probably don’t understand).

Yes, we are living in a “challenging economy” – an economy that was damn near bludgeoned to death by your party and its president, George W. Bush. (That’s the guy you and your cohorts have chosen to conveniently forget, along with the damage he did.)

And now the economy has become even more “challenging” thanks to your party’s shutting down the government, which it is now estimated has cost our already-fragile economy in the neighborhood of $24 billion.

To call the “moral decay and lack of decent quality entertainment” as great a danger as the fact that millions of Americans are struggling to survive in the wake of a “challenging economy” is beyond despicable. And while we’re on the topic of despicable, being that you are now the CEO of a movie production company, the fact that you are telling your “Patriot Voices” dupes (sorry, I mean “donors”) that “the lack of decent entertainment” is one of the greatest dangers facing the nation is so transparently self-serving, I am actually embarrassed for you.

Let me tell you what’s really happening here, Rickums:

The greatest moral decay in this country is the fact that truly immoral people are fighting tooth-and-nail to cut as many holes as possible in the social safety nets that keep our fellow citizens-in-need housed, fed, and clothed – and they are doing so while holding themselves out as Christians pretending to adhere to the teachings of The Nazarene, while refusing to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and care for the sick as He specifically admonished them to do.

The greatest moral decay in this country is not due to the filmmakers who produce movies depicting violence – it is due to those who produce violence on our streets by refusing to enact gun laws that keep weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, and keep automatic assault weapons out of the hands of anyone not currently serving in the military. It is due to those who encourage such violence by stirring the pot of uncontrollable outrage towards illegal aliens, homosexuals, Muslims, atheists, liberals, non-whites, and pro-choicers, along with constantly attempting to undermine the legitimacy of Obama’s right to the office he was duly elected to hold – twice.

The greatest moral decay in this country emanates from a party that encourages bigotry, racism, homophobia, xenophobia – and does so not only in the guise of patriotism, but in the name of Christ. That moral decay literally oozes from every fiber of your party’s being; it is prominent in Republicans’ speeches, their public statements, and their votes on pending legislation. And what is deemed to be even too disgusting for GOP elected politicians to state publicly is simply relegated to right-wing radio and TV personalities, to be broadcast to your constituents on a daily basis. Continue reading “Frothy Mixture of Fecal Matter” Strikes Again

Take Five (Way Stranger than Fiction edition)

Take-FiveIf those present at the March on Washington imagined anything about the national conversation on race half a century hence, they might well have assumed it would at least be an adult conversation, because of course they had no way of knowing that the Republicans of the new millennium would so decisively abandon any pretense of maturity, emotional or intellectual.

The GOP Dog-Whistle Philharmonic haughtily eschewed the high-profile 50th-anniversary celebrations of the March, opting instead to stage a series of energetic but stridently off-key recitals by its few minority soloists, like Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz.

In an op-ed supposedly penned to commemorate Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, Jindal, stunningly, used the occasion to criticize – wait for it – minorities:

Jindal accused minorities of placing “far too much emphasis on our ‘separateness,’ our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc. We live in the age of hyphenated Americans…

“Here’s an idea: How about just ‘Americans?’ That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me. Placing undue emphasis on our ‘separateness’ is a step backward. Bring back the melting pot,” the governor opined.

Jindal underscored that waste of electrons with an appearance on Meet the Press last week that included a jaw-dropping rationalization for the tidal wave of bigotry to which the nation’s first not-entirely-white President has been subjected:

David Gregory asked Gov. Jindal about Colin Powell’s opinion that there is a dark vein of intolerance within the Republican Party. Jindal answered by comparing the Republicans’ Obama racism to Democratic treatment of George W. Bush.

The same day Jindal was pitching that idiocy, Senator Ted Cruz, touted, toasted, hyper-hyped Cuban-Canadian-American Demagogue Extraordinaire, appeared on CNN and claimed that his party’s vigorous efforts to destroy Obamacare are based in part on trying to help Hispanics and African Americans:

“… it’s not working and it’s hurting Americans,” Cruz insisted. “And by the way, the people that it’s hurting the most are the most vulnerable among us… The people who are losing their jobs are young people, are Hispanics, are African-Americans, are single moms. I don’t think that’s fair, I don’t think that’s right.”

Sure you don’t, Senator. Your party is all about minorities, after all. Case in point, the government’s figures for 2012 show African Americans at 13.1% as a percentage of total population, and Hispanic Americans at 16.9%, while a 2012 Pew study found that 31% of African Americans and 22% of Hispanic Americans have received SNAP benefits at some time in their lives. Yet, strangely, the party you and your doughy cohort of sophists insist is on the side of minorities has yet to reinstate food assistance funding after summarily stripping it out of the Farm Bill, the legislation through which SNAP money has traditionally been disbursed.

If it’s no longer mind-boggling that the stubbornly self-congratulatory “Party of Lincoln” is so utterly, offensively worthless on race and every other issue of minority rights, it’s only because everybody got used to it ages ago. And not a single po-faced minority conservative mouthing glib clichés in the direction of the nearest TV camera is going to do anything but make it worse.

TWO: Crass from the Past

Leave it to Republicans to keep their presidential campaigns in the news long after the campaigns have ended. You might remember a fellow by the name of McCain who ran against Barack Obama back in 2008. You know, the mavericky guy? Thought his long-suffering wife would be a fabulous “Miss Buffalo Chip”? Recklessly chose a running mate who had never heard of the Bush Doctrine and couldn’t name a single newspaper she read? A POW in Vietnam, although his campaign only ever mentioned it on days of the week with names ending in “y”?

Five years on, the FEC has managed to reach a “conciliation agreement” with “Five-Plane” McCain’s campaign for taking excessive campaign contributions and sundry other violations, all of which would have been easily avoided if anyone working on the campaign had cared enough to care. The agreement stipulates $80,000 in fines. Chump change in the grand scheme of things? Sure. And it certainly won’t be coming from the spouse-subsidized pockets of Senator “Keating Five” himself, but it’s a mildly gratifying little story nonetheless.

You might also recall that while the 2008 Obama campaign was running an impressively web-savvy operation (modeled on but expanding greatly on the blueprint of Joe Trippi’s groundbreaking work for Howard Dean in 2004), the hapless John McCain was reduced to admitting he relied on his wife and aides to get online, with the almost pathetically hopeful postscript:

“I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself…”

Well, times sure have changed. McCain’s just a regular old cybernaut nowadays, as he proved Tuesday at a Senate hearing on Syria. As his colleagues mulled over matters of life, death, international law, and scruffy old domestic politics, Senator McCain was photographed by the Washington Post‘s Melina Mara playing online poker on his iPhone.

There are three possible takeaways here, as I see it. One is that McCain is so fixated on the idea of raining explosive ordnance on Syria that he doesn’t give a nickel-plated crap what he might hear at a hearing intended to furnish him with the sort of information important decision-makers supposedly need to make their decisions. The second is that McCain is a goldbricking charlatan who owes his state and the nation a formal apology and his immediate resignation. The third is he’s both.

Then there’s Rick Santorum, whose granitic façade of moral rectitude has long been suspected of masking an inner sleazeball. Well, suspected by me, at least, but also by electoral watchdog groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, who recently filed a formal complaint with the FEC alleging that Santorum directed a $1 million donation to the Red White and Blue Fund, a Super PAC, in violation of federal election law.

If true, it’s disgusting behavior for any politician, let alone one who wants the world to believe he invented ethics, but the most disturbing allegation is that Bill Doré, the Louisiana businessman whose donation is at the heart of the complaint, actually thought it was sensible to cough up a million bucks to try and get Rick Santorum elected President of the United States.

Last, and almost certainly least, there’s Michele Bachmann, whose ill-fated 2012 campaign has already resulted in a probe by the House Ethics Committee for possible financial violations, a lawsuit over an allegedly stolen mailing list, and an active investigation into Kent Sorenson, a state senator who chaired her campaign in Iowa and may have received improper payments for so doing, in addition to more recent allegations that he solicited money from the Ron Paul campaign in exchange for switching his support.

The newest Bachmann scandal-in-waiting revolves around possible illegal coordination between her campaign and the National Fiscal Conservative PAC, coordination that might have involved her husband Marcus Bachmann. The Justice Department subpoenaed financial and other records from the Super PAC last week. It seems Bachmann’s imminent retirement from Congress could prove fortuitous, freeing her to spend more time with her attorneys.

THREE: The Mire Next Time

And then there are the horrors and hilarity of Republican presidential campaigns yet to come. If you thought ’08 and ’12 were grotesque spectacles of dank depravity, untrammeled ugliness and anti-intellectual pandering to the scummiest side of human nature, you were right, but ’16 is going to be much worse. Or better, depending on how entertaining you find all this stuff.

Former centerfold model and temp Senator Scott Brown, having nothing much else to do these days, recently went to the Iowa State Fair, and explained to the Boston Herald why. He wants to find out if the country is collectively deranged enough to consider putting him in the White House:

“I want to get an indication of whether there’s even an interest, in Massachusetts and throughout the country, if there’s room for a bi-partisan problem solver… It’s 2013, I think it’s premature, but I am curious. There’s a lot of good name recognition in the Dakotas and here – that’s pretty good.”

Yeah, real good. Hey, maybe Cosmo can do a sort of “where are they now?” follow-up shoot, with a naked President Brown stretched out on an Oval Office couch, a copy of the Constitution barely preserving his modesty.

As I noted here a couple of weeks ago, Congressman Peter King of New York is on a jihad to neutralize what he calls the “Rand Paul isolationist wing” of his party, and if that means he has to get elected President to do so, well, so be it. At least he wouldn’t do any nude modeling, or so we can hope.

Ted Cruz, of course, has been running all over the country, most recently to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa, pretending that a presidential run is the last thing on his mind, while hurriedly initiating the process to divest himself of the Canadian citizenship he pretends he didn’t know he had. If it were up to Texas Teabagger Christine Katok (a woman on record as doubting President Obama’s eligibility) Cruz wouldn’t need to bother:

“As far as I’m concerned, Canada is not really foreign soil…”

With no Democratic incumbent to face in ’16, Republicans, theoretically, have a shot at retaking the White House, but these early stirrings already hint at their determination to ensure it won’t happen. Continue reading Take Five (Way Stranger than Fiction edition)

Stormy Monday, 8/5/13

StormyMondayWith the House and Senate now shuttered until September, anyone seeking a quick fix of foolishness this week will have to look beyond the Beltway. Ames, Iowa would be an ideal place to start.

On Saturday, Ames hosts the second annual “FAMiLY LEADERSHIP SUMMIT,” where you’ll be able to hear a variety of speakers each “address a ‘singular’ and ‘major’ threat to America and to America’s families, along with the opportunity for leadership solutions to these threats,” and maybe even find out why “The FAMilY LEADER” organization exempted the “i” from their all-caps name. For a mere $49, you can savor speakers such as washed-up actor Stephen Baldwin, washed-up politican Rick Santorum, and tufted pink windbag Donald J. Trump, and your boxed lunch is included. I have no inside info, but I’m guessing that the “singular” and “major” threats to America will include minorities, gay people, SNAP recipients, Girl Scouts and Democrats.

If that shindig seems insufficiently compelling, you might consider Tuesday’s fundraiser for New Hampshire Republicans in Wolfeboro, headlined by someone named Mitt Romney, who apparently has a summer home there. It seems not all fools and their money are soon parted; as of this writing, there are still $1,500 VIP tix available.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns has just wrapped up another Cairo trip after discussions with various Egyptian politicians and interest groups, and conjoined twits Lindsey Graham and John McCain are likely to head there this week at the behest of the Obama Administration. If their efforts falter, I hope the President sees fit to send reinforcements, like maybe the other 44 members of the Senate Republican Conference. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 8/5/13

Take Five (Zero Worship edition)

ONE: I Just Can’t Quit Her

She might be an obscure political footnote waiting to happen, but Michele Bachmann will always be heroic to me. Even among her fellow House Republicans, few would even try to yearn to aspire to attempt to emulate her straight-up weirdness, seemingly involuntary lying, and relentless misunderstanding of pretty much everything about everything. Unlike wannabes such as the suspiciously non-contiguous Sarah Palin or the implosion-primed Nikki Haley, Bachmann is truly the GOP’s current It Girl.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, Bachmann kicked off the 113th Congress by unsuccessfully trying to repeal Obamacare. Yes, that’s something the House Majority does compulsively at this point, like meth or knuckle cracking, but Bachmann brought a whole new level of earnest sincerity to this nasty habit:

That’s why we’re here because we’re saying let’s repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens. Let’s not do that. Let’s love people, let’s care about people. Let’s repeal it now while we can…

ThinkProgress managing editor Igor Volsky covered himself completely with dust and glory in his enviably nimble reporting on Bachmann’s speech:

Moments after calling for the complete repeal of a law that will extend health care coverage to 30 million Americans, Bachmann claimed that her belief in Christ inspires her to care “for the least of those who are in our midst.” After she completed her remarks, fellow Republican Rep. Michael Burgess (TX) observed that the Minnesota Congresswoman “has a way of stating these things that none of us are capable of.”

Yes, she certainly has a unique way of going about all kinds of things, so unique that the Office of Congressional Ethics has apparently developed something of a fascination with it:

The Daily Beast has learned that federal investigators are now interviewing former Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations… investigators have allegedly asked about allegations of improper transfer of funds and under-the-table payments actions by Bachmann’s presidential campaign…

In a piece last weekend, Charles M. Blow of the New York Times insisted:

People like Bachmann represent everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. She and her colleagues are hyperbolic, reactionary, ill-informed and ill-intentioned, and they have become synonymous with the Republican brand. We don’t need all politicians to be Mensa-worthy, but we do expect them to be cogent and competent.

Sorry, but please speak for yourself, Mr. Blow. I expect no such thing, at least from Republicans.

As for you, Michele Bachmann, long may you run, be it for office or from the law.

TWO: Pride and Prejudice and Piss and Vinegar

Bachmann isn’t the ’12 cycle’s only failed Republican hopeful still attracting headlines. Two of her primary rivals are at the center of a fascinating new story by Joshua Green of Businessweek:

As Mitt Romney struggled in the weeks leading up to the Michigan primary, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum nearly agreed to form a joint “Unity Ticket” to consolidate conservative support and topple Romney.

Damn. As much as I loved seeing Barack Obama and Joe Biden beat Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, I reckon I’d have loved seeing Obama and Biden beat Gingrich and Santorum just a little more. Or should that be Santorum and Gingrich?

… the negotiations collapsed in acrimony because Gingrich and Santorum could not agree on who would get to be president.

Poor bastards should have called me; I could have told them the only one who would get to be President was the guy who already had been for four years.

Like Gingrich, Santorum has fallen back on public speaking gigs, continuously augmenting an already lengthy record demonstrating why he’s unfit to hold any elected office, of any kind, anywhere, ever. Santorum, essentially, is very hard to distinguish from a vile little bigot:

… during a speech in Naples [Florida]… Santorum… said he found that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama lacked leadership in defending the U.S. against the threats of radical Islam.

“I’m not talking about all Muslims, just like I’m not talking about all Christians and all Jews. The Christian faith, the dominant religion in the west, and the Islamic faith, come down to two men, Jesus Christ and Mohammed,” he said.

“Jesus did not fight, rule or reign. Mohammed fought, killed, ruled, conquered and governed,” Santorum said.

In a clear indication that Santorum slept through every stinking thing that happened in the world from his regrettable birth in 1958 right up until the moment he took the stage, his grubby little stem-winder included this astounding pseudo-observation:

“We are about to hand off to our children, grandchildren, the most destabilized, threatening world we’ve ever seen,” he said.

Ironically, he would have been eloquently correct had he been talking about catastrophic climate change, but Santorum is on record as a stalwart climate change denialist, who once sneered on the campaign trail:

“… an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life.”

Vexing as you and I might find it, Santorum’s refusal to go away is a timely morale boost for the vile little bigot wing of the Republican Party (often referred to simply as “the Republican Party”) since said wing might soon have to adjust to the tragedy of life without vile little bigot Gary Bauer. Bauer might be irrelevant now to all but three or four other Republicans – who are probably related to him – and he quite possibly spends most of his time floating in a jar of formaldehyde on a shelf in a dark K Street basement, but he spoke Tuesday at a DC march organized by the National Organization for [some] Marriage, waving his stunted little saber valiantly at the Republican Party and the spring sky over the National Mall, and declaring the preservation of marriage inequality his personal line in the litmus:

“… if you bail out on this issue, I will leave the party and I will take as many people with me as I possibly can.”

I guess I’m a sentimental fool, but somehow I find it touching that Gary Bauer is still out there on the front lines of the 21st century, fighting to keep a Republican Party recklessly flirting with the 20th stuck firmly in the 19th. And the Unhappy Warrior has company, such as the equally post-relevant Mike Huckabee:

When asked by the website Newsmax “if he sees the GOP ever pivoting and backing gay marriage,” Huckabee admitted they might.

“And if they do, they’re going to lose a large part of their base because evangelicals will take a walk…”

As someone who’s been suggesting they take a walk for years now, I for one can’t wait.

THREE: Neighborhood Watch

Speaking of raging bigots, the festering sore on the body politic known as the Westboro Baptist Church is still widely acknowledged as an on-point answer to the question: What’s the matter with Kansas? But Fred Phelps’ hatemongering Topeka “church” couldn’t deter a decorative new neighbor from settling in right across 12th Street, a gay-rights center, complete with rainbow-painted clapboard and a conspicuous Pride flag:

The center is the work of a roving do-gooder named Aaron Jackson, a 31-year-old community-college dropout whose other projects have included opening orphanages in India and Haiti and buying a thousand acres of endangered rain forest in Peru. This year, his charity, Planting Peace, also intends to de-worm every child in Guatemala.

While Planting Peace works for a worm-free Guatemala, the folks across the street will be equally busy. Currently, they’re gearing up to picket not only the Final Four at the Georgia Dome, but Kansas City concerts by Bon Jovi (who apparently “stood by silently” while gay people “took over this nation”), Itzhak Perlman (for killing Jesus), Carrie Underwood (for “promoting sin and shame”) and Fleetwood Mac (because “singer Stevie Nicks proudly joins fellow sodomitical harlots Lady Gaga, Cher and Madonna as a well known ‘gay icon’”).

Is it just me or is Sodomitical Harlots the greatest band name ever? Oh, and call me petty, but why, when I simply want to know what the Westbores are up to, do I have to wander around 10 of their deeply hideous websites? Why can’t they just put everything together under one convenient URL, like GodHatesEveryoneButUs.com? Continue reading Take Five (Zero Worship edition)

I Just Can't Quit Ya, Ricky

Well, it looks like I’m still on Lil’ Ricky Santorum’s email list. I could ask to be removed, but his senseless ramblings are just too damned entertaining to give up. A guilty pleasure on my part? Absolutely.

His Frothiness is now sharing his stupidity via a group he founded called Patriot Voices – obviously established as an attempt to remain politically relevant. I can only suppose that when Bobby Jindal recently stated that Republicans have to stop being the Party of Stupid, Ricky didn’t get the message. Apparently, Ricky did lose that number after all.

Ricky’s most recent PV emails have been fact-free diatribes (FFD being a language he speaks fluently) about how the national security of the US will be utterly destroyed should Chuck Hagel be appointed Secretary of Defense, and how Obama & The Dems are out to annihilate the Second Amendment, because registering guns and insisting on background checks would be an invasion of the privacy of weapon owners – and if a few potential murderers of kindergartners slip through the cracks, that’s something we should all just learn to live with, or die from, as the case may be.

But today’s missive from everyone’s favorite dead-baby-fondler was intriguing, to say the least:

Today at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) outside of Washington, I launched the American Dream Challenge, where we want to know what your American dream is. Join us by taking the challenge and answering this question: What is your American Dream and what are you doing to make it happen?

Simply click on the link (What is your American Dream and what are you doing to make it happen?) and let us know what your dream is and what you are doing to attain it. We at Patriot Voices are committed to starting a candid conversation about what Americans see as their American dream and what can be done to make it happen.

Each of us has our own idea about what it is to attain the American dream, and we want to share those ideas as part of this discussion. I look forward to hearing about your American dream.

Admittedly, I simply could not resist the invitation to respond:

Dear Ricky:

My American Dream begins with all Americans enjoying the same rights and freedoms, regardless of color, ethnicity, gender, religion, social status, financial well-being, or sexual orientation.

My American Dream would mean a nation where our children’s education is based on history as it was, not on some conservative nutcase’s rewriting thereof, and science based on actual facts, not on some religious idiocy that enshrines the Bible while dismissing what is known about the universe in which we live. Above all, my American Dream would recognize the separation of Church and State – just as The Founders envisioned it.

My American Dream consists of would-be Americans – who have proven their work ethic, their desire to contribute to their communities and the nation as a whole, and have raised their children with the same values – becoming citizens as expediently as possible.  (If you think there would be too many citizens as a result of same, I will gladly provide a list of those whose citizenship could be revoked, in order to make room for those who truly take the ideals of democracy to heart, regardless of their country of origin.)

My American Dream would entail less war and more diplomacy, less money spent on weapons and more money spent on things that would benefit not only Americans, but our global neighbors as well. It would encompass recognizing that we, as a nation, have as much to learn from the global community as we have to teach, and we would conduct ourselves accordingly. Continue reading I Just Can’t Quit Ya, Ricky

TO: Rick Santorum (R-Frothy Mix)

Dear Ricky:

Well, it seems I’m still on your mailing list – the one compiled for your incredibly abysmal presidential campaign, which has now been assumed by your equally idiotic venture, “Patriot Voices.” I suppose I could unsubscribe – but where’s the fun in that? To be honest, I’d miss the laughs.

Your latest diatribe begins:

“President Obama isn’t only insisting that House Republicans raise taxes. He’s also refusing to make any major spending cuts! But I imagine you haven’t heard that on the news.”

No, actually I haven’t heard that on the news. Maybe that’s because it isn’t true. While I have little respect for the mainstream news media these days, every once in a while they actually refrain from passing utter bullshit off as the truth.  Granted, it’s a more rare occurrence than it should be, but these are the times in which we live.

“We need to make sure the American people understand that the Obama Administration is refusing to negotiate and that the President is the one who is going to cause tax rates for middle class Americans to skyrocket.”

Well, here’s the thing, Ricky: the above statement is exactly the kind of bullshit I was referring to. What this all comes down to – in terms simple enough for even you to grasp – is that your party wants social programs (which assist those among us in dire need) pared down to the bone, so that billionaires won’t face the horrific prospect of paying higher taxes that amount to a pittance as compared to their wealth.

Now, when you can explain the fairness of that concept, I’ll be all ears. But so far, I haven’t heard word one from your side of the aisle to justify the idea that hard-working middle-class Americans and/or the poor should tighten their belts in order for a CEO making seven figures a year to maintain his lifestyle.

“Right now the American people are only hearing one side of the story. Every day they are being bombarded with liberal propaganda about how the President is acting ‘responsibly.’”

I can understand your confusion. Acting “responsibly” is as alien to you and your Republican colleagues as things like empathy, fairness, justice, etc.  I admit to my own confusion when you refer to “liberal propaganda” – did you mean to say “the truth”? I’ve noticed a decided penchant for right-wingers to confuse the two.

“However, the truth is the President hasn’t budged one inch in his belief that spending shouldn’t be significantly cut and entitlements don’t need to be reformed. He even wants to raise the debt ceiling!”

Oh, noes! Obama wants to raise the debt ceiling in order to deal with the financial clusterfuck your party created! You do realize that the debt ceiling was raised seven times during the Dubya administration (hey, remember him!?!) and, funnily enough, I don’t remember your big fuckin’ yap being opened even once. In fact, I don’t remember your fellow party members even questioning where that money would come from, or whose pockets it would eventually wind up in without a scintilla of accountability. But that was then, and this is now – right, Ricky?

“Republicans are the only adults in Washington. And their position is simple: if the President doesn’t agree to cut spending, our economy is headed for disaster!”

Seriously, dude – if the Republicans are the “adults” in Washington, the entire country is headed for disaster. Fortunately, the citizenry recently voted in accordance with who they think the adults are – and it wasn’t the GOP. Unfortunately, the whining cries from the Kiddie Table can still be heard. But we all have our crosses to bear.

“If we are going to force Barack Obama to do right by the American people, then we have to win the public relations battle. Patriot Voices is taking the lead in this fight, and we are going to take the liberal media head on.”

Barack Obama has been doing right by the American people – from his efforts to lead the US down the path to the same kind of healthcare coverage that the rest of the industrialized nations of the world have successfully implemented, to the recognition of the importance of affordable higher learning (something you and your buddies could really use, BTW), to standing up for the rights of gays/lesbians, to attempting to pay down the debt your party’s last Failure-in-Chief was so quick to run up, while you were cheerleading from the sidelines. Continue reading TO: Rick Santorum (R-Frothy Mix)

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)