Stormy Monday, 5/26/14

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StormyMondayAfter his invigorating Memorial Day weekend trip to Afghanistan, the President leaves the storied delights of Bagram Airfield behind for the shilling fields of DC. No wonder he’s planning to get out of town again by midweek, when he’ll head to West Point to deliver a commencement address focused on foreign policy, advocating what one Administration official calls “interventionism but not overreach.”

But before he gets that far, on Tuesday the President plays host to the fifth annual White House Science Fair. This year’s edition celebrates the achievements of women and girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) competitions nationwide.

Speaking of the President, Senator Ted Cruz, intrepid Texan-Canadian-Cuban defender of all things he considers Constitutional, warned last Thursday that the wily Kenyan Usurper and his Senate henchmen are goiing to repeal the First Amendment. Will it happen this week? You never know. Stay vigilant, and keep a bag packed in case you have to flee the house ahead of the secret police coming to haul you off to that FEMA camp you heard tell was being built out there in the woods past Transit Road.

Tuesday, voters will decide whether veteran Congressman Ralph Hall – 91 years old and a lurid example of that weirdest of political creatures, a Democrat turned Republican – should get another kick at the can, or whether he has already done sufficient damage to the Republic and should be replaced by the even more odious John Ratcliffe. If you’re a voter in the Texas 4th, well, to paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel, “any way you look at it, you lose.”

Edward Snowden’s first interview with US mainstream media appears Wednesday, when NBC airs a sit-down he taped with the oleaginous Brian Williams in Moscow last week. I reckon the odds of Williams eliciting anything probative are roughly the same as Snowden’s chances of returning home to a tickertape parade and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

With John Conyers’ name back on the primary ballot by order of US District Court Judge Matthew Leitman last Friday, all eyes are on Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who has until June 6 to appeal the reinstatement before the ballot is officially certified. With Conyers on the ballot or as a write-in candidate, the primary will be held on August 5. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 5/26/14

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Take Five (Zero Worship edition)

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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 Continue reading Take Five (Zero Worship edition)

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Take Five (Nasty, Brutish, and Short edition)

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ONE: Tasty!

Knoxville restaurateur Martha Boggs, owner of Bistro at the Bijou, became a star this week after refusing to serve Tennessee state senator Stacey Campfield, a virulent homophobe who has repeatedly introduced his so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill in a ritual that can best be described as Nashville’s annual Running of the Bullshit.

As originally crafted, the bill would prohibit discussion of homosexuality in schools through 8th grade; a revised version would only allow mention of sexuality “involving human reproduction.” Clever, yeah? The revised bill recently passed the state senate and is headed for a vote in the house.

“When I saw him at the front door, I told him to leave,” Boggs said Monday. “It’s just my way to show support for the gay community and stand up to somebody I think is a bully. He’s really gone from being stupid to dangerous. I think he needs to know what it feels like to be discriminated against.”

Campfield recently upped the stakes in his homophobic vendetta with a January 26 appearance on Michelangelo Signorile’s Sirius XM OutQ radio show, a segment characterized by a string of offensive comments, viz:

“Well, [homosexuality] does happen in nature. So does bestiality. That doesn’t make it necessarily something that we need to talk about with children.”

“And there are children who are sexually confused, who don’t know, potentially may not know which way they are, and may be being pushed into a relationship of a homosexual nature that is not appropriate for them.”

“If some kid grows up – listen, so some kid wants to grow up – it’s not my choice personally – if some kid wants to grow up and say: Hey, I’m gay, more power to you. Knock yourself out. That’s not the jobs of our schools, to be advocating and pushing those positions on young children.”

“Heterosexuality – I hate to say this – the basis of our society, you know, you cannot let homosexuals – I hate to tell you this, it may be a tip for you, but they really can’t naturally reproduce.”

“It is scientifically proven that heterosexuality is scientific. It is natural reproduction.”

“I mean, I knew somebody who kept a squirrel caged up one time, and the squirrel started this – actually had, uh, relations with a stuffed animal. That does not make having relations with stuffed animals natural… Just because animals do it, we should not take our lead from the animal kingdom.”

“… most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community… It was one guy screwing a monkey, if I – if I recall correctly, and then having sex with a man…”

“Well, my understanding – and correct me if I’m wrong, Mr. Science, on this – but my understanding is also it’s virtually – not completely impossible – it’s virtually impossible to contract AIDS, outside of blood transfusions, through heterosexual sex. It’s virtually impossible. If you’re having anal sex, yes, you – you’re much more likely to contract AIDS.”

“The homosexual lifestyle has been glorified in the media and everywhere else. I don’t think I’m – you know, it’s pretty well out there… Homosexuals represent about 2 to 3% of the population, yet you look at television, you look at – in television, in plays, in theater, it’s – 50% of the theater is based – I’d say probably more of that than 50% of the theater is based on something about homosexuality. TV shows, they’re a vastly overrated populace in the – in the – in the television industry… ”

“Anybody out there who’s listening, your 12 listeners on your show, you have them – you have them Google ‘average homosexual life span,’ it’s very short.”

None of this is shocking, since it comes from a man who attempted to join the Tennessee Black Legislative Caucus in 2005 solely for the sake of being able to accuse its members of being more racist than the KKK when they turned him down, and who introduced a bill in 2007 that would have required the issuance of death certificates for aborted fetuses. What is shocking is the frequency with which various Republican elected officials mouth ignorant, hateful rhetoric like Campfield’s, and the rarity of actions like the one Boggs took in response:

“I’m a married heterosexual woman,” Boggs said. “I had no intention of doing this for publicity, but he’s an embarrassment to the state. If more people voted, we wouldn’t have people like him in office.”

Bistro at the Bijoux’s Facebook page can be found here – please give Martha Boggs and her staff some love. And if you ever find yourself in Knoxville, head over to 807 South Gay Street (seriously!) and give them your business.

TWO: Rank Bigotry

West Point recently booked Lieutenant General William “Jerry” Boykin (mercifully retired) to address its National Prayer Breakfast, sparking the same sort of controversy that has ensued from Boykin’s other public speaking gigs. The Academy’s decision to invite this poster boy for Islamophobia was explained (away) by West Point as an example of cadets being “purposefully exposed to different perspectives and cultures.” And West Point really spun the spin:

The National Prayer Breakfast Service will be pluralistic with Christians, Jewish, and Muslim cadets participating. We are comfortable and confident that what retired Lt. Gen. Boykin will share about prayer, soldier care and selfless service, will be in keeping with the broad range of ideas normally considered by our cadets.

Their comfort and confidence notwithstanding, that range of ideas got a little less broad when Boykin’s appearance was called off, a decision West Point would have us believe was the general’s:

LTG (Ret) William Boykin has decided to withdraw speaking at West Point’s National Prayer Breakfast on 8 February 2012. In fulfilling its commitment to the community, the United States Military Academy will feature another speaker for the event.

If you’re wondering why Boykin’s name seems familiar, you might recall that he was Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence during the Bush years, and quite a fan of W:

“George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States,” Boykin told an Oregon congregation. “He was appointed by God.”

Well, at least he got the first part right. Bush ultimately had to chastise Boykin publicly over his penchant for revolting inanity like this:

In a speech at a church in Daytona, Fla., in January, Boykin told the following story:

“There was a man in Mogadishu named Osman Atto,” whom Boykin described as a top lieutenant of Mohammed Farah Aidid.

When Boykin’s Delta Force commandos went after Atto, they missed him by seconds, he said. “He went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, ‘They’ll never get me because Allah will protect me. Allah will protect me.’

“Well, you know what?” Boykin continued. “I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”

Since his retirement in 2007, Boykin has continued to run around saying outrageous things about Muslims, and he gets paid to do so:

… he said there should be “no mosques in America”…; “Islam is a totalitarian way of life, it’s not just a religion”; “it should not be protected under the First Amendment”; Muslims operate “under an obligation to destroy our Constitution.”

Kudos to the warriors at VoteVets who spearheaded the effort to stop West Point from heaping disgrace on itself. Thank you all, once again, for your service. Continue reading Take Five (Nasty, Brutish, and Short edition)

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