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

Iran Sends Delegation to Assist Florida Election Officials

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today announced that he has dispatched a team of election officials to Florida to assist officials there in tabulating the results of Tuesday’s Presidential race.

“I was shocked and saddened to see images on the news in recent days which showed so many dark skinned people waiting on lines that stretched as far as the eye could see — some spending their entire day waiting in the heat to exercise their right to vote,” the one-time influential leader told reporters. “It reminded me of sadder times here at home — before we embraced the freedom and democracy we all enjoy now.”

Ahmadinejad also added, “I found it particularly sad because Gov. Rick Scott has always been such a good friend to me ever since we first met back when I was running for mayor of Tehran. I’ll never forget meeting him at a spaghetti dinner fundraiser and finding, much to my surprise, how much we had in common — particularly when it comes to our philosophy regarding the role of government.” Continue reading Iran Sends Delegation to Assist Florida Election Officials

Take Five (Push, Push Sweet Charlotte edition)

ONE: Consider the Barn Burned

One of many sharp contrasts between the Republican and Democratic conventions was how the parties treated their former favorite sons. George W. Bush, a fellow you might remember from his demolition of the economy, his demolition of Iraq and/or his demolition of Republican claims to seriousness as a political party, appeared briefly on video, albeit with his daddy functioning as a sort of fig leaf of supposed respectability.

Bill Clinton, on the other hand, appeared live in Charlotte, and delivered a speech as good as any he’s ever given, meaning it was utterly masterful. For those too young too remember the Clinton years, now you know. President Clinton, though, had plenty of company. Deval Patrick, Tammy Duckworth, John Kerry, Julián Castro, Jennifer Granholm, Elizabeth Warren, James Clyburn and many, many others roused and inspired. It was the polar opposite of the sorry spectacle in Tampa the week before, the “highlight” of which was a cranky old man chatting with a chair.

Michelle Obama’s star turn on Tuesday night cut through four years of right wing crap attempting to portray her husband as aloof, out of touch, out of his depth and out of step with that absurd construct Republicans like to describe as “mainstream American values.”

Gabrielle Giffords led the Pledge of Allegiance on the final night, and if you didn’t have tears in your eyes watching it, well, you’re either a Republican or you need to consult an ophthalmologist.

Vice President Biden, as always, came across as that rarest of creatures, a politician I actually do want to have a beer with. Make that a few. And if he feels like cracking open a bottle of Jameson to cap off the evening, hell, yes, I’m in.

And Barack Obama? He did great, but I thought he sounded bone tired. And how could he not be? This election cycle he has the White House to carry on his back as he works the stump, and of course he can’t even play a round of golf without catcalls from the jerks, puds and phonies across the aisle. He’s spent four years pulling the country out of a deep hole, and for his extraordinary efforts he gets called a commie, a foreigner, an imposter, uppity, angry, lazy, a fraud. Why he wants the job again, I don’t know, but I’m damned grateful that he does, and it’s going to be no less gratifying voting for him again than it was the first time.

TWO: Matthew 25:35, with a Side of Orzo

While the late change of venue for President Obama’s Thursday night acceptance speech provided the usual conservative media suspects with plenty of food for thought – and by “thought” I mean “risibly baseless speculation” – it also provided 8,000 pounds of actual food to folks in need in Charlotte.

Bank of America Stadium’s “VIP suites and club rooms” were to have teemed with hungry Democrats on the convention’s final evening, and stadium chef Jon Morey and his staff worked feverishly to prepare a mountain of upscale eats in anticipation. Instead, the Carolina Panthers and the stadium’s food services company Delaware North Inc., with logistical support from US Foods, ended up distributing tons of “pecan-fried chicken, baked orzo, fresh crudités, three bean bake, fresh cut fruit and something called short rib cobbler” to Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, and thence to local soup kitchens, daycare centers and homeless shelters. Food was also donated to local non-profits A Better World and the Harvest Center of Charlotte.

While it’s not known whether any leftover food from the Republican National Convention got to the truly hungry, a convoy of refrigerator trucks was rumored to have made the 200-mile trek from the Tampa Bay Times Forum to 1295 North Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach. I know this because I just originated the rumor.

THREE:  Unfair and Unbalanced

Speaking of Palm Beach, one of the newest residents of its county jail is David A. Kappheim, who earned his stay by allegedly committing domestic battery, aggravated assault and criminal mischief. Why? His girlfriend is a liberal, and he tried to strangle her.

When Kappheim was approached by the arresting deputy, he said “he was very conservative and (his girlfriend) was a liberal.” He also told the deputy that “he felt that he was going to have to kill her,” the report said.

Kappheim also admitted to trying to kill his girlfriend three times, the deputy said. When he was placed in handcuffs, he allegedly had a panic attack and kicked the sheriff’s car’s rear door so hard it was knocked out of its alignment.

While inside of the woman’s apartment, the deputy said he found documents that made him believe Kappheim is obsessed with Fox News and the Republican Party, and that he may be a danger to others.

Rick Scott had barely arrived in Tallahassee in 2011 when he ordered a purge of felons from Florida’s voter rolls. Just this once, perhaps that worked out for the best. Continue reading Take Five (Push, Push Sweet Charlotte edition)

Slouching Towards Tampa (Things Fall Apart edition)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Talks, 3/25/12

The White House is in full campaign mode Sunday, with senior adviser David Plouffe hitting four of the five major network television talk shows.

Plouffe, who managed President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, stops by “Fox News Sunday,” . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 3/25/12

Sunday Talks, 1/29/12

Just ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primary in Florida, three hopefuls anchor this Sunday’s television talks shows: Newt Gingrich on “Fox News Sunday” and ABC’s “This Week,” Rick Santorum on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Ron Paul on . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 1/29/12

Take Five (We're Having a Heatwave, a Tropical Heatwave edition)

ONE: Time for Georgia and Alabama to consider a border fence?

Maybe it’s just the weather, but a few Florida-centric crime stories from last week suggest that some people’s synapses are really beginning to short-circuit a tetch.

That may not be much of a revelation, given the state’s reputation, but even by Florida’s usual standards, last week was a suspiciously weird one.

Consider this odd incident in Utah, involving a Floridian, nudity, and a gun:

Joseph Dennis Alfieri, 50, was cited by the U.S. Forest Service on Sunday with being publicly nude and causing public inconvenience, annoyance and alarm, both misdemeanors. According to information filed Monday in U.S. District Court, a woman camping near the Cobble Rest Campground tracked down forest rangers to report a man walking in a dispersed camping area naked while armed with a pistol.

The woman told rangers the man wore only a holster for his pistol, according to court documents. He reportedly walked around the camping area “at all hours of the night” shouting at the river, the witness said.

Just what that darned river did to piss him off will likely not be known until a court can sort this out, but it appears that Alfieri has a developing habit of behaving badly when way out west:

Federal court records show Alfieri’s address is listed as North Miami, Fla., but property records show he has previous Utah addresses in St. George, Park City and Salt Lake City. Utah state court records show Alfieri pleaded guilty to a DUI-related charge in 1996.

Months ago, I urged Rick Scott to consider imposing a temporary moratorium on out-of-state travel until Floridians can all learn to comport ourselves in a law-abiding fashion. Sure, such a travel ban would violate both state and federal statutes, but it would still be a smart move. That being the case, we can rest assured Governor Scott won’t entertain the idea, so residents of the other 49 had better brace themselves for more buck-naked Floridian pistoleros. At least concealed carry won’t further complicate things, or so we must hope.

Another Floridian, Cherilyn Lopez, decided to keep it local, and she made it a family affair to boot:

A woman who brought in a 3-year-old boy with her when she robbed a bank today told deputies that she has a prescription drug addiction and was going to use the money to buy narcotic pills, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said…

Deputies learned that Lopez originally drove to the bank and parked, leaving the boy in the minivan, the sheriff’s office said.

She entered the bank, but the boy got out of his car seat on his own and headed to the bank. He put his face against the glass and a bank manager noticed him. The bank manager approached Lopez and asked whether the boy was with her, the sheriff’s office said.

Lopez walked outside and grabbed the boy. They walked in and she robbed the bank, the sheriff’s office said.

Huge kudos to the bank manager for ensuring the child’s safety, and here’s to Lopez getting the help she needs. Or, as a baseline, at least considering a sitter next time…

Finally, the sole witness to a burglary in Ocala appears to have reaped a quick reward… from the perp(s):

One of the homeowners told a sheriff’s deputy that he and his wife had left their residence, located in the 3100 block of Southeast 22nd Avenue, around 1 p.m. They returned about 5 p.m. and discovered the break-in.

Removed from the residence was $13,000 worth of jewelry and $400 in cash. Officials noted it appeared the thief/thieves had removed rotisserie chicken from the refrigerator and fed it to the dog.

The homeowner told the Star-Banner that he had purchased the chicken the night before from Publix, and it was found on the living room floor when he discovered the burglary. Continue reading Take Five (We’re Having a Heatwave, a Tropical Heatwave edition)

Take Five (Rapture-Almost-Ready edition)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, well, that must be it.

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

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

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

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

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

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