Take Five (Wild, Wild Life edition)

ONE: “Turkeys are bad enough.”

Not that there had been much suspense about it beforehand, but Arizona Governor Jan Brewer made her loyalties in the Republican Party’s War on Women abundantly clear when she suffered mild friction burns in her haste to sign the Women’s Health and Safety Act into law.

The bill has nothing to do with women’s health and safety, of course. It’s just another iteration of the standard Republican end-run around women’s reproductive rights, comparable to those already implemented in various other states:

… the law includes education in public schools prioritizing birth and adoption, signs throughout health-care facilities warning against abortion “coercion,” and an order for the state health department to create and maintain a website touting alternatives to abortion and displaying images of fetuses. Also required is abortion counseling for women aiming to abort pregnancies due to fetal abnormalities, and if the abnormality is certain to be fatal, the counseling incorporates perinatal hospice information before ending the pregnancy. It reaffirms existing barriers to access, like the requirement of a notarized parental consent form for minors and a mandatory ultrasound screening within 24 hours of having an abortion.

Brewer’s stance on another issue, however, was a little more surprising. She vetoed for a second time a bill that would have allowed firearms to be carried on public property, although the veto was motivated by fiscal and consensus concerns rather than ideological ones:

“The decisions to permit or prohibit guns in these extremely sensitive locations — whether a city council chamber or branch office staffed with state workers — should be cooperatively reached and supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders, including citizens, law-enforcement officials and local government leaders,” Brewer wrote in her veto letter…

House Bill 2729… proposed making it legal for people to enter public property with a weapon unless the property was secured by either a state or federal certified law-enforcement officer or an armed security guard and metal detectors…

Cities, counties, law-enforcement agencies and business organizations opposed it, saying they would have had to either let guns into buildings where the public would rather not have them or pay millions of dollars to provide the security required to keep them out.

A study conducted by legislative staff estimates that security costs for a government entity to ban guns could have ranged from $5,000 to $113,800 per public entrance in the first year with ongoing costs of $54,400 to $108,800 per year.

Hey, scoff if you must, but if you want smart policy from an administration like Brewer’s, it’s invariably going to be unintentional.

Elsewhere on the gun (out-of-) control front, an Oklahoma legislator recently offered up a novel rationale for the open-carry bill that recently passed out of committee and is headed for a legislative vote. Ralph Shortey, a – surprise! – Republican, treated fellow members of the Senate Committee on Public Safety to this harrowing anecdote:

“I was in oil and gas,” Shortey said. “I was out on a lease at one time and I got attacked by a turkey. Wait until you get attacked by a turkey. You will know the fear that a turkey can invoke in a person. And so I beat it with a club. That was all I could do.

“I wish that I had a gun with me,” he said. “And I started carrying a gun in my truck after that without a license because I didn’t want to get attacked by a mountain lion. Turkeys are bad enough.”

Maybe I’m naïve, but it seems to me that all this proves is that Oklahoma should consider an open-carry law for clubs. If they’re good enough for Shortey, they should be good enough for everyone else.

TWO: “… one of these massive, nuclear submarine-type sturgeon.”

It’s a pleasure to report that, despite Scott Walker’s worst intentions, at least one part of Wisconsin’s government is still functional, the Department of Natural Resources.

Near Shawano, DNR wardens recently discovered a sturgeon reckoned to be 125 years old. The fish was laying eggs in the Wolf River, over 30 pounds’ worth. The sturgeon’s length was measured at seven feet, three inches, and its weight at 240 pounds.

Said Wisconsin DNR sturgeon biologist Ron Bruch: “I knew they were out there and I thought, ‘We finally got one of these massive, nuclear submarine-type sturgeon.’”

The wardens kindly tagged and released the fish before Wisconsin Republicans could take a cleaver to it like they have everything else in the state.

THREE: Do you know the way to San Jose? And could someone please turn up the heat in here?

Two recent incidents indicate that the TSA might finally have succeeded in its apparent mission to drive air travelers completely bonkers.

On April 10, a woman lit up a cigarette in a nonsmoking area of the B Concourse at Denver International. Asked to extinguish the cigarette, she complied. Then she removed her clothing. Whatever the relevance may be to the smoking and/or the stripping, the woman told Denver police officers that she hadn’t slept the night before (the incident occurred at about 8:45 in the morning). She was later taken to an area hospital for a medical assessment.

You’re probably thinking this was just a weird, one-off occurrence, worthy of a smile but not a second thought. Not so fast, gentle reader. Consider a question recently posed by Gothamist:

So is naked TSA protesting now a trend?

Well, maybe. A week after the Denver incident, one John Brennan, bound for San Jose, California, was going through security screening at Portland International. At some point in the process, Brennan decided to – whoops! – take his clothes off, too:

Police charged John E. Brennan with disorderly conduct and indecent exposure after he disrobed while going through the security screening area at the airport Tuesday evening.

“When interviewed about his actions, Mr. Brennan stated he fly’s (sic) a lot and had disrobed as a form of protest against TSA screeners who he felt were harassing him,” a police incident report said…

“Mr. Brennan’s actions caused two screening lanes to be closed and while some passengers covered their eyes and their children’s eyes and moved away from the screening area, others stepped out of the screening lanes to look, laugh and take photos of Mr. Brennan,” the police report said.

Which, for the latter group mentioned, at least, put a little fun back into the reliably crappy experience of modern air travel.

Gothamist didn’t venture into woo territory searching for a connection between the two incidents, but there’s no reason why I shouldn’t. Who’s to say that there isn’t something nefarious afoot here? Some plot to destabilize America via inconvenient nudity? Some weird George A. Romero scenario, but instead of becoming zombies, the infected attack an unsuspecting world by jiggling their jiggly bits at them in inopportune settings? Or maybe Brennan was just on something?

He was not intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time, police said.

Until further data is available, I guess I’ll just go with the Romero scenario, then. I hope at least the judge remembers to thank Brennan for not smoking. Continue reading Take Five (Wild, Wild Life edition)

Sunday Talks, 2/26/12

Well, well, looks like there are a few more Democrats on the talk show circuit this week, but as usual, the Rs outnumber the Ds.

This Sunday’s television talk shows survey the nation’s political landscape from a . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 2/26/12

Take Five (Dejection Year edition)

ONE: Deck the halls with boughs of folly…

This is the 43rd edition of Take Five, which celebrates its first anniversary next Monday – or would, were the world not perched perilously on the precipice of a moral abyss unprecedented in the majestic sweep of the last, say, six and a half months.

Back in May, I commented on a decision by Dwight Probasco, principal of Wasilla High School, to drop Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” from the school’s graduation ceremonies repertoire following a parent’s complaint that the song was inappropriate due to its composer’s sexual orientation. An abridged version of the song ended up being performed by the school’s “symphonic jazz” choir, though, and so legendary Wasilla – proud crystal meth capital of Alaska and the place where Sarah Palin reads, oh, pretty much all the newspapers and magazines that have been in front of her over all these years – forfeited its claim to being the Last Bulwark against the Gay AgendaTM.

That daunting mantle had to be picked up 2,756 miles southeast, in Traverse City, Michigan, where Cherry Knoll Elementary School has been gearing up for this year’s Christmas concert. As the program came together, the school’s music teacher boldly decided to alter the lyrics of “Deck the Halls” to avoid having the children sing about “gay apparel,” as the term purportedly caused the kids to giggle.

Following widespread criticism, school principal Chris Parker has since decreed that the young warblers revert back to the original lyrics. America’s desperate search for the Last Bulwark against the Gay AgendaTM continues.

TWO: Panic in Detroit

Elsewhere in Michigan, another city seems poised to fall under the fiscal control of the state government. Michigan’s Emergency Financial Manager Act of 1990 was updated last March, a change which:

… allows the state to review local governments’ fiscal standing sooner and take more actions to prevent bankruptcy…

Under the new law, Michigan’s emergency financial managers have extensive authority. They can reject, modify or terminate any collective bargaining agreement, recommend dissolution of the local government or recommend bankruptcy as a last resort. However, the courts can revoke a manager’s control if the court finds it to be based on insufficient documentation and evidence, or if the decision to assert emergency control is found to be arbitrary and capricious.

That this legislation occurred under Governor Rick Snyder is reason enough to think it’s a bad thing. “Arbitrary and capricious” pretty much sums up Snyder’s entire approach to governing. It’s not much of a stretch to believe that it’s simply another way to erode public sector workers’ rights and subvert municipal self-determination. Of course, there are alternative views:

… Tom Wieczorek, director of the Washington-based International City/County Management Association’s Center for Public Safety Management and a retired city manager from Michigan, says the new Michigan law is designed as a better alternative to bankruptcy…

Although they too smell just a little off:

… Wieczorek says other states could pass similar laws, just as the idea of placing limitations on public employees’ collective bargaining rights spread from Wisconsin to other states. “It just seems lately to be a trend, what starts in one state moves across [to others],” he says.

In April, Benton Harbor became the first municipality in Michigan affected by the revised act, later joined by Flint and Pontiac. This week, Snyder’s government began a review of Detroit’s financial situation. Depending on the outcome, Detroit might be next.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, a Democrat, has already incurred the wrath of public employees by proposing to lay off 1,000 city employees and negotiating 10 percent pay cuts with those who would keep their jobs. AFSCME has declared its willingness to cooperate with the city government, but reaching a compromise is bound to be difficult and painful. Without one, though, it’s a safe bet that Lansing will step in.

So how might state control of Detroit work? If Pontiac and Benton Harbor are any indication, it wouldn’t be pretty:

As Benton Harbor’s emergency manager, Joe Harris has ordered firefighter cross-training for police officers, which reduced public-safety costs by a third.

He also negotiated new collective-bargaining agreements with many unions, forcing Benton Harbor employees to pay 20 percent of their health care premiums and contribute 10 percent of their wages to pensions.

In Pontiac, emergency manager Lou Schimmel dismissed the city clerk, the city attorney and the head of public works. He’s also taken smaller steps, such as removing parking meters that cost too much to maintain. And he hopes to save $3 million by having the neighboring community of Waterford take over fire protection.

Legal challenges against the revised act on grounds of unconstitutionality are pending. I hope they get expedited. Any day now, Snyder might decide that Michigan can no longer afford courts. Continue reading Take Five (Dejection Year 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)