From the Soapbox/Huffington Post Blog



Published at The Huffington Post, May 13th, 2010

I keep coming back to Glenn Beck’s preposterous notion that President Obama has “a deep-seated hatred for white culture.” It’s one of those patented GOP instances of preemptive projection: accuse the enemy of doing exactly what you’re doing — in this case being racist — and when they call you out on it they sound like they’re saying, “I know you are but what am I?”

It’s infantile, petulant, straight out of the schoolyard, and dishonest to the core. You know, vintage Beck. It’s also effective, because it panders so well to the divided, warrior-crybaby mindset of the Tea Party crowd, who loudly profess on the one hand that they’re America’s staunchest, bravest patriots, but on the other can never quite keep their deep-seated sense of racial grievance and victimhood under wraps. They wave one fist at the sky (and/or in your face) in 1776-style rage, and use the other to ward off entirely imaginary blows from the massed, marauding hordes of the differently pigmented and the indifferently documented. People whose political ancestors marched with George Wallace in the sixties now appropriate, routinely and shockingly, the rhetoric of the civil-rights movement to bolster the notion that they, Big Whitey, are the real victims of race-hatred now. People whose parents and grandparents marched and died in the sixties for civil rights — a serious, grown-up political movement with the noblest objectives in mind – are left to wonder how it came to this.

Looking back, I suppose the election of Barack Obama was always bound to kick over the stone of American racism and reveal the wriggling horrors beneath, but who really could have ever predicted how bad it would get? We now know there is still that strain — ever-present, apparently ineradicable — of Americans deliriously happy to delude themselves into believing the President of the United States is a terrorist, a Muslim, an illegal alien, a sleeper agent, a communist, a National Socialist, a baby-killer, and so on. We see their shrieking skulls on TV every day, gargling their insane conspiracy theories and crackpot talking points at cable news hosts who all too often let them rant unchallenged. Talk Radio and Fox News in particular are thrilled to encourage and even sponsor these primeval political urges.

But this is America, and racism, as ever, is good for business on the far right and even, more recently, on the near-right. Good for short-term business, that is, but in the long term its political suicide. As whites drift nearer and nearer to majority-minority status, and the loss of their long-cherished political hegemony looms bleakly, the strangest noises and eruptions can be heard from them — like a collective death-rattle. And such eruptions are music to the ears of national and state politicians and their handlers. In Congress and the Senate, many formerly reasonable Republicans are now singing from the Tea Party hymn sheet for fear that insufficient ardency in support of the group’s pet causes will lose them their seats come November. Thus we are greeted with the nauseating spectacle of senators and congressmen throwing up their hands when pushed to affirm the president’s American provenance, or supposed Muslim leanings. “Well, I haven’t done all the research, so I can’t confirm or deny that” is the usual line — when eight seconds on the internet would settle it forever. Without the benefit of knowing how to use “Google”, a very fine line can persist between Harvard liberal elitist and Kenyan witch doctor.

In Arizona meanwhile, the state assembly, inspired by long time race-baiter Russell Pearce – a man who approvingly cites neo-nazi and white supremacists in his fundraising materials – has literally started howling at the moon. With the passage of SB1070, it is now open season on anyone who even looks like a Latino in Arizona. Crime is the reason cited most often, even though crime in Arizona, like in most states, has dropped dramatically in the last decade and a half. And with 51% of those polled seeming deeply okay with these rancid new Afrikaner-style pass-laws, it certainly looks like it’s paying off in the short term.

However, cities and firms nationwide are starting to sever their business ties with the scorching, bankrupt state, and a Major League Baseball boycott is looming. Arizona Governor/Grifter Jan Brewer (Palin, on a diet of meth and sun and even less education) may indeed go down in history for SB1070, but not by signing in another shameful Nadir of American Race Relations. She’ll be hailed as a backdoor civil rights hero by inadvertently ushering in a 21st century civil rights movement that will inevitably lead to comprehensive immigration reform, as did the last Civil Rights Movement in 1965. What the bleached brained, SAT-bereft, radiology tech dropout didn’t learn in “college’ is to what extent the hallowed civil-rights revolution owed to something as seemingly insignificant as major league baseball. That without the billion dollar business of producing heroes for public consumption, whites might never have cared enough about blacks to be bothered by racial injustice (Jackie Robinson, whose inclusion in MLB led this nation into desegregation, was honored at ballparks across the country 10 days before SB1070 was passed).

Today, players of Hispanic descent make up about 30% of team rosters, due in part to immigration legislation enacted by Dubya and Congress in 2006 that fundamentally abetted and facilitated the process by which MLB could obtain P-1 visas for foreign-born minor league players. This self-serving reform allowed for increased numbers of visas for non Americans, from which the MLB reaps tremendous financial gain in the way of increased access to foreign talent. If “Arizonans” think the multi-billion dollar industry of Major League Baseball is going to lose one penny, let alone the next Roberto Clemente or Albert Pujols — because of 3 hillbillies gone mad with power, then they have whatever form of rabies John McCain has. Anyway, it’s not the most noble of human traits, but we do tend to be more outraged by indignities against our sports and entertainment heroes than by the actual atrocities and constitutional perversions committed against our housekeepers and our gardeners. And without baseball, Arizona is just, well, Thunderdome.

It’s been a whole 23 years (that’s 161 in hillbilly years), since Pontiac dealer, impeached criminal, pickaninny apologist and Arizona Governor Evan Mecham made his first act in his new job the erasing of a MLK paid state holiday. Within a few months, nearly $4.6 million was lost.  A few months later, this polarizing <em>non-white oriented one day a year caused the cancellation of 45 conventions to the tune of $25 million in lost revenue. One of these was an NBA convention in Phoenix. Mecham’s response?  “Well, the N.B.A., I guess they forget how many white people they git comin’ to watch them play.” The NFL Players Association was none too keen on playing their showcase game in a state that refused to recognize a national holiday solely because the guy was black, and the NFL removed Super Bowl XXVII from the hideous and aptly named Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe and put it in the lovely and quaint Rose Bowl in old town Pasadena.

Racism’s negative effect for Republicans has not yet been seen outside of protest rallies. Racism has woken the sometimes dormant giant of future American politics, an increasingly vocal and active Latino voter demographic, much of it located in precisely those border states most prone to racist agitation over border security and illegal immigration, states where those of Hispanic origin often lived until deep into the 1970s in a state of virtual “Juan Crow.” When that group asserts itself in the polls, the right will have to relearn the grim lessons that did for CA Gov. Pete Wilson in 1994, after he backed the racist and discriminatory Prop 187 (so classy of them to name a ballot initiative after the police call-sign for homicide). The Republican Party has been in a minority in California ever since — and it’s a long time since we heard a peep out of Pete Wilson.

The good news is, it’s suicidal! Maybe the only creditable thing (besides his humanizing addictions) about George Bush was his determination to bring as many Hispanics into the GOP as possible. Karl Rove may be a fat creep, but he knows where the electoral future lies in the Sunbelt/Southwestern states — and it isn’t just with white folks any more. Alienating Latino votes is the political equivalent of slitting your wrists in the bathtub. But the party of Rove and Bush — largely thanks to Rove and Bush’s disgraceful, divisive and demonizing rhetoric on so many other topics — just can’t seem to help itself. It can’t bring itself to denounce the racism evident at every tea party rally, and often seems to defend or downplay it. In the face of a Malthusian slo-mo alteration of the political landscape by Latinos, Arizona’s politicians went almost immediately with their lowest gut-feelings. Rile up the mob for a few extra votes in Nov ’10, then lose everything in 2012.



Published at The Huffington Post, November 16th, 2009

So Glenn Beck and his Teabagging minions — never the sharpest students of American history — have now appropriated Thomas Paine, the staunchest radical of the American Revolution and later a persecuted moderating figure in the French one, for their own rancid and incoherent purposes. At the Beck-backed 9/12 rallies and the various Tea Party whine-offs nationwide, historically-challenged high school dropouts have been donning revolutionary motley and declaiming the words of the Founders, men whose ideas, if studied in any kind of depth, would most likely repulse and repel them. Hell, most of these people – the supposed neo-Paine-ists – wouldn’t get ten pages into Paine’s anti-clerical tract The Rights of Man, without feeling the urge to build a pyre and burn it to satanic ashes.

The buffoonish Beck has recently given a platform to one Bob Basso, an eccentric motivational speaker (he claims to have created “laughter-therapy”), and onetime Hawaii Five-O recurring guest star who went viral on YouTube when, dressed up as a speechifyin’ Paine, he threw in his lot with Beck’s 9/12 and Tea Bag mobs, and called for a “Second American Revolution.” A former TV sports anchor from Hawaii, Basso once delivered the news stark naked and, on another occasion, from atop a pile of manure, which means that he comes from the same idiotic, “look-at-me, Ma!” local-market, drive-time media hothouse that gave us self-professed “rodeo-clown” Beck. No wonder they get along so well.

Basso and Beck share a blissfully logic-and-facts-free version of US history that should have Francis Parkman and George Bancroft throwing up in their coffins, and it certainly takes a lot of gall to sign Paine up for service in the right-wing Tea Party Militia. Beck says that Tom Paine helped us “take back America,” thus glueing his own nauseating agenda to a thoughtful dissenter who would have fled puking from the likes of Beck and his ululating aficionados. You can quote Paine’s line about “sunshine patriots and summer soldiers” until you’re blue in the face, but one paragraph of his writings, ripped from its context, does not Tom Paine a rightie-wingnut make. Dick Armey’s addled army would run screaming for their mommies and/or the hills if they acquainted themselves with Paine’s radically progressive thoughts on universal suffrage, democracy, free public education and minimum wages and living standards. He hated slavery, monarchy, organized religion and capital punishment, the last two of which certainly feed the more noxious fever-dreams of the Beck-fetishizing far-right. Paine once led his fellow excise workers in England on strike for better wages, scathingly denounced organized religion and church dogma, and ridiculed Christianity in The Rights of Man. Worst of all, he was, like so many of the Founding Fathers, an honorary French citizen (and in Paine’s case, a member of the post-revolutionary French National Convention). Paine was so radical and unswerving, even by the standards of the Age of Revolutions, that only six people total attended his funeral in New York City in 1809 – two of whom were freed black slaves. It’s hard to get a lot of Democrats to endorse him these days, let alone Republicans and their allies on the bleakest fringes of the know-nothing Right.

This isn’t the first time the far right has appropriated the costumes and rhetoric of our Revolutionary forebears. The paranoid and racist Arizona Minutemen of recent years weren’t even the first racist group to besmirch those plucky colonial militiamen by stealing their name. That honor goes to ’60s neo-fascist (and veterinarian-products salesman!) Robert DePugh, whose clandestine anti-semitic, white-supremacist micro-grouplet – another Minutemen, also Arizona-based – had a major boner for heavy artillery and pipe-bombs. (De Pugh, incidentally, was an early member of the loonies-only-please, far-right John Birch Society, which was financially inseminated by Koch Industries, which also backed the group that spawned Armey’s Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity, the two main Tea Party “astroturf” backing groups. Really, this tendency, and its ever-present, immensely wealthy and cynical corporate backers, is harder to eradicate than termites or H1N1.) All I’m saying is, it’s odd to see the 60s-loathing right-wing don the same period clothing that we last saw worn at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention and the subsequent Chicago 7 Conspiracy Trial – by Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies, people unaffiliated with any known right-wing group or sentiment, then or now.

All this begs one question — which of the Left’s towering progressive heroes will next be appropriated by the wingnuts? I’d like to see them re-brand socialist leader and sometime jailbird Eugene Debs, or perhaps radical anarchist Emma Goldman, with a Red State glaze. Perhaps Sacco and Vanzetti, the Wobblies or the Molly Maguires will be next for the right-wing makeover. Judging by the precedent set by the Paine-theft, it would scarcely matter that they were in fact communists and socialists, anarchists and union leaders (after all, aren’t fascism and socialism the same thing these days – can’t we all get along?). The right seems to have no compunction whatsoever about scrubbing the rhetorical record of everything — except that some context-free sentence that seems, superficially, to endorse the entire Tea Party agenda.



Published at The Huffington Post, February 14th, 2010

Hi Sarah!
I thought I really ought to be send you a Valentine’s Day greeting today, because I fear that next year you will be forgotten by all but your most rabid and demented fans. The more we learn about you, the less impressed (and more shocked and often nauseated) we are, the more we harden our suspicion that you really ARE an empty vessel, a vacuous, amoral small-town grifter with an eye for nothing beyond the main chance, the next pay-day and the next photo-op. Sunlight, they say, is the best disinfectant, and they’re not wrong. But for you, the one most sorely in need of disinfecting, sunlight has the same effect it does on vampires. It eats away at you little by little, rotting you until nothing is left. The next time I address you it won’t be in the form of a Valentine’s Day greeting — it’ll be an anti-panegyric preached over the coffin of your political ambitions.
I will miss you when you’re gone. Your entertainment-value quotient is off the charts, especially for “over educated”, cultural-elitist snobs like me. There’s the maddening little sing-song delivery of your speeches, with those weird, unmotivated upticks and misplaced emphases that suggest you are literally reading “your own words” for the very first time. For anyone who appreciates real oratorical skills, like those of Churchill, MLK or Pliny the Elder (you can google all these names, sweetie), it’s like having knitting-needles kicked into one’s ears over and over again. There’s your matchless ability to grind grammar and syntax into a non-intelligible word-pulp containing the odd sharp, indigestible fragment of John Birch (“Bomb Iran!”) or Jesus-Freak (“More Divine Intervention!”) insanity, the frequent cheap slurs against your political enemies — who, I can’t help noticing, are sprouting up even in the madder precincts at your own end of the political spectrum — and the usual genuflections towards Boy Jesus and Saint Ronnie (who I bet wouldn’t touch your ass with a forty-foot pole). And then there’s your sorry history of climbing towards the top over the corpses of the people who helped get you into office in the first place.
It’s like a pathology you can’t seem to conquer. I don’t think there’s a step you’ve taken on your long (albeit short) march to infamy that hasn’t featured the wholesale betrayal of the most recent tier of your erstwhile political mentors — the corpses of the disgruntled and thrown-over now surely make up a substantial percentage of the Alaskan electorate. No wonder you quit your job.– the corpses of the disgruntled and throw-over now surely make up a substantial percentage of the Alaskan electorate. No wonder you quit your job.
And I love your unmatched ability to pick fights with almost anyone, especially your own team members and handlers during last year’s election. There’s enough resentment and loathing among that group to guarantee you’ll have a hard, nasty ride in the primaries come 2012 — except I don’t for one minute believe you will run for President. Deep in your cold, flinty little excuse for a heart, you know as well as anyone else that you’re not fit to boss a taco truck, let alone hold the reins of state. Your Nixonian hatreds and resentments are part of the public record — remind me what your state-trooper brother-in-law’sname was, or the name of that guy you fired for not breaking the law and firing the bro-in-law for you? — and sooner or later, even your least discriminating, most intoxicated aficionados will take note of them and feel their gorges rising — as no doubt they have whilst watching your yoga-like, palin-defends-limbaugh-use-of-the-word-retarded, pretzel-bending exertions in re: Rush Limbaugh and “Retarded.”
And talking of aficionados and all that “Run, Sarah Run!” jive, did you happen to notice that the room you addressed last Saturday was only half-full, with a mere 600 souls gathered there — for the price of $549 dollars a pop — to hymn, laud and exalt you? They were the ones devoted enough to pay to hear you speak, who didn’t care about the massive speaker’s fee you pocketed (with vague promises of using it to support Tea Party-ish candidates — promises you’ll soon break, like all the other promises you make), the folks who really are dumb enough to believe that “someone just like me” is capable of running the country, the ones who laughed at the “TelePrompTer” joke even as you used a TelePrompTer of your own, and the ones who think that scrawling a cheat-sheet on your palm is a sign of genius and guts (and not a primitive, pre-digital version of a TelePrompTer — irony not being one of their/your strong suits).
The polls are starting to reflect a growing weariness with all your white-bread, small-town scams and poisonous airhead utterances. Last week a republicans-only poll of likely contenders for 2012 showed you in a distant second place to robotic Thunderbirds puppet Mitt Romney.He has spent billions of his own ill-gotten buckage to secure the princely figure of, oooh, 14 percent support for his putative presidential bid. You on the other hand, limped into second place with seven percent of the tally, barely beating out all the other scurrilous, ice-hearted has-beens and never-will-bes on the list (Huckabee, Gingrich). And another poll showed unfavorables towards you that should put paid to any presidential ambitions you might harbor — and here I reiterate my certainty that you will find the note-perfect, “I’m too pure for this” rationale for NOT running, and instead resuming your role as right-wing America’s pallidly-pigmented equivalent of Oprah.
Given that your insatiable, almost neurotic appetite for ink, flashbulbs and headlines hasn’t flagged for one second since you were plucked from the frigid tundra 18 months ago, it seems that the more we get to know you, the less we want to know.
Americans are finally waking up to your game, girl, and fewer and fewer of them display any inclination to play it. Happy Palintine’s Day, Sarah, there won’t be another.

How Much Longer Can the GOP Maintain Credibility When all They Say is “No! No! No! No! No”!

Published at The Huffington Post February 10th, 2010

It’s been over a week now since President Obama entered the enemy’s camp and delivered his magisterial demolition of the rancid core principles of the Republican “loyal opposition.” He came in peace, and left them in pieces, extending the hand of friendship, and then elegantly bitch-slapping the bejesus out of them with it. For an hour and a half last Friday, it felt damn good to be a Democrat, and that feeling has been pretty rare just lately.
How it felt to be one of those Republicans, I can’t say. Smarmy, two-faced finger-wagger Mike “Bad Penny” Pence sure didn’t look too delighted as Obama took him apart like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (t’was anything but a flesh-wound), using Pence’s own economically-sub literate budget document for rhetorical toilet paper, and with the outhouse door wide open for all to see. Marsha Blackburn basically dug her own grave by prattling on endlessly like some demented Sunday-school teacher, and all the President had to do was cast the last shovelful of dirt on top of her when she was done. The whole event was like Mike Tyson versus Pauly Shore. Still, a great day for bipartisan interaction and exchange – that was the general opinion from both sides afterwards, even as one felt the chastened Republicans did protest too much about the genial under-the-spotlight shellacking they’d just endured.
Still, a great day for bipartisan interaction and exchange – that was the general opinion from both sides afterwards, even as one felt the chastened Republicans did protest too much about the genial under-the-spotlight shellacking they’d just endured.
A week on, events in the house and elsewhere prove that nothing has changed. You could poleax these people with a sledgehammer to the noggin, morning, noon and night, and still nothing would get through. And why? Because they don’t want it to get through; because, despite their endless plaintive whining about the political polarization they themselves have honed to a fine art over the last thirty years, it doesn’t profit them one bit to be bipartisan – a point Obama made several times to the GOP’s face.
Case in point, the party’s own recently trounced Presidential candidate, alleged maverick and actual cranky old fart John McCain – another supposed “moderate” increasingly heeding the insane siren call of the rabid right – who this week spoke out against the lifting of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Actually he was also speaking out against his own carefully expressed “principles” of the last couple of years. Time was, McCain was happy to leave this issue to the considered wisdom of the Joint Chiefs and other military leaders, stressing that once they felt the time was ripe, he’d be happy to tag along with their superior wisdom.
Well, that superior wisdom was expressed in full measure by Admiral Mullen before the Senate this week. His formulation was precise, devastating and unanswerable: essentially, “why should people have to lie in order to fight for their country?” Even Colin Powell, the originator of this stupid and insulting doctrine, finally found the courage to disown it. And why not? The enemy is howlingly homophobic – who better to kill him than gay guys with guns? One division of fired-up gay women cast into the breach and these wars would be over in nanoseconds.
And meanwhile, where was McCain? He was speeding at a hundred miles an hour in exactly the opposite direction – away from his own words, his own ideals and his own increasingly addled mind. Who’s the flip-flopper now, flyboy?
If that’s where the moderate McCain – hated by so many in his party for his rumored centrism – had fetched up, imagine where the rest of his howl-at-the-moon party was. It seems that there is no Republican principle that cannot be instantly disavowed if Obama decides it’s worth backing. The moment the President expressed his support for a resolution on deficit-reduction, seven Republican senators suddenly found the resolution they had so ardently, full-throatily called for – and backed – to be too extreme for their liking. The moment Obama reiterates his distaste for earmarks, hillbilly neocon grifter “Senator” Richard “Dick” Shelby decides to put a hold on every single Obama nomination currently passing through the confirmation process because of two slices of prime Alabama pork he wants passed. Who can shadowbox effectively against such duplicity and dishonesty?
Yesterday, Dick released his blanket hold on most of the executive nominations after his psychotic obstructionst tactics were exposed. His explanation? To get “the White House’s attention”, OR two swine-flu-flavored, defense earmarks that Shelby coveted for his own racist welfare state. What better way to get $40 billion for an aerial refueling tanker fleet than to grind the Federal Government to a halt?  And when do great patriots like Dick Shelby or opt to throw their weight behind a Paris based, foreign competitor to Boeing?  January 21st, when the psychopaths on the Supreme Court decided that foreign companies such as Shelby’s money bag, Airbus’ parent company EADS could contribute to U.S. political campaigns with impunity. So much for freedom fries. That “R” after your name? That doesn’t just stand for your party affiliation anymore, morons. It also means you’re “the R Word”.
If you need a an MRI brain-scan of the dementia currently eating away at the Republican cerebellum, look no further than a mind boggling  poll by the Daily Kos. Start with the reasonable options: Should Obama be impeached? YES: 39% for what iniquitous and treasonable conduct, no one’s exactly sure, but impeach him anyway, NOW. Do you think Obama is a socialist? YES: an astonishing 63%. This bespeaks an ignorance of political reality – and the political spectrum – so stark and moronic that one wonders if there’s any road back to sanity for these people. Do you believe Obama was born in the United States? </blockquote>NO: 36%. Do you believe that Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than Barack Obama?</blockquote> YES: 53% that is the mindset of a suicide cult – it would be like putting Nicolae Ceaucescu’s insane wife in the Oval Office.
And on it goes…. Did ACORN steal the 2008 election? NOT SURE: 55%. Is Obama a racist who hates white people?  YES: 31% (He’s HALF-WHITE, you brain-donors!) and finally, Do you think your state should secede from the United States? YES: 23%. To which one can only say, go ahead! When the taxes paid by the citizens of Massachusetts to your backward Southern hellhole dry up, you’ll come crawling back on your hands and knees begging for our black President  – or the Khmer Rouge – to look after you.
These are the people the Republican Party now has to appease. No wonder they’re going insane trying to stay politically viable. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for them.
Eh. Not really.

Link: The Party of NO!



Published at The Huffington Post January 27th, 2010

I’m delighted to see that the feral children of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove are at it again – and that this time their antics may land them in the Federal Pen for a long time.

The last time we heard from right-wing boy-wonder James O’Keefe, or as I call him, L’il Nixon, he was the toast of the mad-right think-tanks, crowing on Fox and various wingnut websites about having brought ACORN to its knees by posing as a pimp and seeking the organization’s advice about setting up a house of ill-repute on the government’s dime. For this, and despite plain evidence that his stunt used selectively edited footage and audio, O’Keefe was hailed as a hero in the dimmer, danker precincts of the fever-swamp far-right. The Washington Times – predictably as insane as ever – dubbed O’Keefe “a role model and a true American patriot,” and don’t expect them to back away from that overheated assessment any time soon. The politicians who hailed him for his “diligent investigative journalism” – let’s see how long it takes Pete Olson (R-TX) to disavow that idiotic accolade, from a congressional resolution authored by him and signed by several dozen of his mouth-breathing peers – must now square their erstwhile image of O’Keefe as the Right’s own one-man Woodward & Bernstein with the new picture that’s now emerging after he and his pals apparently attempted to bug the offices of Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. Not as neo-WoodStein, but as leader of a far-right, Hardy Boys version of Nixon’s Plumbers. Not a Junior G-Man, but a Junior G. Gordon Liddy-man.

O’Keefe is anything but the “investigative journalist” he claims to be: he’s an infantile black-propaganda warrior for the Status Quo Ante. His motto (which could be the logo-cum-modus operandi for the entire right-wing project of the last three decades) is, as O’Keefe expressed it on Andrew Breitbart’s brain-dead, truth-averse right-wing news-toilet “It is time for conservative activists to create chaos for glory.” I think a few bleak nights in the penitentiary will soon acquaint O’Keefe more intimately with chaos (likely in the form of severe rectal fissures) than they will with glory of any kind.

The echoes of the Watergate break-in are irresistible (though probably far-fetched; Nixon’s Plumbers were incompetent, but they were still pro’s): four 24-year-olds on some kind of Glenn Beck-inspired dorm-room sugar-rush attempt to bring down a wobbly Democratic Senator, apparently feeling ironclad and untouchable after the “success” of their ACORN prank. Certainly there are some weird touches to this story, including the fact that one of O’Keefe’s coconspirators is the son of the Acting US Attorney for Louisiana, whetting one’s appetite for further damning links to more mainstream, less guerilla-style arms of the GOP. And as with everything sleazy and untoward that goes down in Louisiana politics, unapologetic hooker-loving human garbage-pail Senator David Vitter also has a cameo role. Add to all that the presence of listening devices, disguises, misrepresentation, the surreptitious filming of the incident by O’Keefe, and the presence outside of another dimwit manning a “getaway car”, and you have quite the bill of particulars with which the Federal Prosecutor can lard up the indictment. I bet the pleading-up sessions going on right now are a real sweat-lodge for these morons. There may well be a US Attorney in the mix, but these brats are so far out of their depth they can no longer see land. It would be nice to see the Feds throw the book at O’Keefe because that boy, much like Gordon Liddy in his gung-ho, “I’ll kill or die for Nixon” days is OFF THE RESERVATION.

The old question arises again: Are they stupid? Are they evil? Or are they both? I’ll opt for answer no. 3, with the MITIGATING FACTOR that there may well be an 18-and-a-half minute gap somewhere in O’Keefe’s synaptically-short circuited brain.

How does the human mind arrive at this place? Is this, as Hunter Thompson used to say of Nixon, “the triumph of the twisted gene and the broken chromosome”? Or is it nurture, not nature? You have to wonder what kind of values were decanted from O’Keefe Sr’s mind into the son’s over the course of O’Keefe’s childhood. Did Pops read Liddy’s toxic, unrepentantly fascistic autobiography Will to him as he drifted off to sleep? Was there a photo of John Dean slotted behind the mesh of the family dartboard? Was he breast-fed on heroic tales of Donald Segretti and the USC “rat-fucking” mafia that caused so much mischief in the 1972 Presidential Election? Did he root for Nixon, Haldeman, Erlichman and Mitchell while watching All The President’s Men? Were Lee Atwater and Karl Rove the presiding spirits guiding that household?

I’d guess that these children (they sure ACT like children) have been raised in the new disinfotainment dispensation in which one can grow to manhood without ever consulting any source of news besides prejudice-confirming propaganda outlets like The American Standard, Michelle Malkin, WorldNetDaily and Fox News. And if you take your history lessons from ill-informed showboaters and attention-seekers like Glenn Beck, then it’s probably also likely that you have only the dimmest understanding of how the law works, or of how the legislative apparatus will kick your skinny post-pubescent ass down a mile-long flight of stairs if you behave as if it doesn’t apply to you. Believe all you want to the delusions and lies you pick up from the right-wing noise machine, but someday reality will come back and mug you – for real.

Let’s hope this puts these obnoxious neo-McCarthyite thugs out of the picture for ever. And if the people who formerly depicted O’Keefe as the risen spirit of Tom Paine and Paul Revere don’t retract their accolades right away, we’ll know just how worthless they are as truth-tellers and journalists. They’re just as guilty as he is.

Link To: Junior G-Man



Published at The Huffington Post, March 8th, 2010

Jim Bunning managed to do the nation one service: he proved beyond a doubt that some Senators have severed any connections they might ever have had with the rest of America, with verifiable reality itself, with ordinary human decency, or with the concept of shame. If a single image crystallized this feeling for me, it was the sight of Bunning exercising his Senatorial privilege in the most numbingly pedantic and lordly manner: “Excuse Me! This is a Senators only elevator! Excuse me!” he cried as he shooed away an ABC news producer intent on asking Bunning to explain his hold-cum-filibuster on a jobless benefits bill. Well, excuse US, Marie Antoinette! Shall we also avoid direct eye-contact with your majesty, or shall we just prostrate ourselves in the mud as you’re borne past us in your sedan-chair?
What a tragic fall, from Cooperstown worthy pitcher to an angry old man now apparently at large in some parallel Versailles of his own devising. From the king of the pitcher’s mound to just another embittered old crank on the Capitol dunghill.
Like a lot of splenetic old right-wingers, Bunning has a well-nursed sense of personal grievance. He may have tried to throw hundreds of thousands of people off the unemployment rolls for the sake of some bullshit abstract principle he — and almost no one else — believed in, but Senator Jim Bunning only appears to be concerned about the personal pain felt by Senator Jim Bunning himself.
The Capitol Police, he moaned, were “doing a lousy job” protecting him from reporters like the one he shooed out of the elevator. This is pretty true to form for Jim, who is accompanied on visits back home by a phalanx of bodyguards (“there may be strangers among us…” he intoned darkly, in the true paranoid style). This is in spite of — or, come to think of it, perhaps directly because of — his repeated votes against raising funding for Kentucky law enforcement. Bunning reached some new climacteric of pathetic whining when he bewailed, on the Senate floor, the fact that his own filibuster had caused him to miss a big baseball game on TV.
Old, mean and right-wing: he’s the oldest Republican Senator and, according to the National Journal, has the second most conservative record in the Senate, after the dreaded enthusiast and off-the-charts rightie Rick Santorum before Pennsylvania’s voters wised up and threw that fool out. Talking to historian Taylor Branch not long after Bunning was elected to the Senate in 1998, President Clinton shared his own experiences with the ex-pitcher. Branch later wrote: “[Clinton] said Bunning, a former baseball player, was so mean-spirited that he repulsed even his fellow know-nothings. ‘I tried to work with him a couple times,’ said Clinton, ‘and he just sent shivers up my spine….I know you’re a baseball fan and everything, and you don’t like to hear it, but this guy is beyond the pale.'” More tellingly, Gene Mauch — Bunning’s manager during his tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies — seemed to think he was an ass, too.
It’s the “mean” part, not the old or the right-wing aspects, that most annoys people about Bunning. Do his grandchildren flee from him in terror and in tears? How often do his relatives have to bite their tongues at Thanksgiving Dinner? No one familiar with his atrocious record can be in the least surprised that Bunning was content to be the public face of a political move that not only cannot succeed in the long run, and which intentionally immiserates and impoverishes people — but which finally costs the government and the states MORE money.

Scary looking even as a Phillie.

Why would he care? It seems that so many already hate Jim Bunning, including even his ever more exasperated, equally right-wing and perceivably soulless peers on the GOP. Mam’selle Mitch McConnell, his fellow Kentucky Senator, put his own reputation on the line in backing Bunning in his 2004 reelection bid — and this at a time when there was open speculation, based on Bunning’s increasing eccentricity and obvious mental rigidity, that he might actually be suffering from senile dementia.
In case you’ve forgotten the evidence for that startling diagnosis, Bunning himself said that his Democratic challenger Daniel Mongiardo looked “like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons,” and refused to debate him face-to-face. (What? He couldn’t beat Uday or Qusay in a fair fight? Gene Mauch wouldn’t have stood for that kind of pussyfooting). When a debate finally took place, Bunning refused to leave Washington, claiming he was preoccupied with Senate votes despite there being no votes scheduled. He appeared instead by satellite-feed, and refused to admit electoral commissioners to determine if he was being fed his answers from behind the camera. In spite of all this anarchy and tragicomic idiocy, Kentucky voters put him right back in office, so my sympathy for them is currently in very short supply. If this is the man they want to represent them in the Senate, then I just can’t wait for Kentucky to secede from the Union already. The racehorses stay on our side, thank you very much.
In April, 2006, Time magazine confirmed what the political cognoscenti already believed by nominating Bunning as one of America’s Five Worst Senators, dubbing him “The Underperformer” for his dismal, lazy, splenetic and misanthropic performance in elected office, and noting his utter disinterest in topics unrelated to baseball or immigration. This lack of enthusiasm for public office manifested itself most bizarrely in his adamant refusal to attend the first week of the 2009 Congress, airily claiming he had inviolable plans with his family that week. Anybody hoping that said family might be staging a hostile intervention on behalf of their apparently brain-fried relative was swiftly disappointed. Students of Senatorial Idiocy 101 soon had their favorite test-subject back before them for continued examination — unchanged, unapologetic and still just as mean as a snake. Only a month later he was telling constituents back home that cancer-stricken Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be dead within nine months. In his inevitable apology letter, Bunning contrived to misspell Ginsburg’s name. Twice.
This time around, McConnell has withheld his endorsement entirely, urged Bunning to drop out, and meanwhile scorched the Kentucky political landscape to deny funds to the barmy old pitcher. A pox on both their houses, I say — my enemy’s enemy, etc. Bunning, despite whining unconscionably about his treatment, seems to have gotten the message. Before his disgraceful performance last week, he had already opted, in the face of near-universal hostility in his own party and his home state, to retire after the 2010 elections.
After that date, we won’t have Jim Bunning to kick around any more, so I plan on doing a lot of kicking while I still have the chance.


Published at The Huffington Post January 24th, 2010

So remind me, since when did 41 percent of 100 suddenly constitute a majority?
Oh yeah, I remember now: since George W. Bush slunk out of Washington DC in ignominy not 365 days ago. And since the wannabe bipartisan Democratic majority in both houses swore their oaths of office this January, empowered by a landslide election and a popular mandate for change like none seen since the rout of the Goldwaterites in 1964. And yet, since then they have pussyfooted, wavered, caviled and serially wimped out on what that majority means for them.
It’s housecleaning time, starting with the Senate Majority Leader. We need a new LBJ, a master of the legislative process not above above using coercion, threats, or actual physical intimidation to push through legislation (how long would it take the Cosmo model or Joe Lieberman to crack under “the treatment”?). Rahm Emmanuel was appointed to be tough on the Congress he supposedly knows inside and out, to whip them into line and scourge them inch by agonizing inch towards the Dems’ version of the shining city on the hill. And what have we seen? A president and his primary henchman for Congressional liaison behaving as if their election was settled by the Supreme Court, as if they were possessed of a wafer-thin, Carter-era majority in both houses, and dependent on the goodwill of their enemies to get a single thing done. We gave them an axe and told them to start chopping; said axe is currently rusting, unused and forgotten, in the Democratic tool shed. Certainly no one used it in the farrago lately witnessed in Massachusetts. I mean, really, could we not beat this guy in Ted Kennedy’s hometown seat? A single Google search and a few strategic leaks, plus a half-decent, non-complacent, flesh-pressing candidate, would have dispatched this fool to history’s dumpster weeks ago. Leave it to meth-mouth Glenn Beck to blurt out what all of America is thinking: Ted Kennedy’s predecessor is a creep, and a 48 Hours Mystery episode waiting to happen.
Let’s roll some numbers. Apparently 41 votes in the Senate — courtesy of the Cosmo model and sexist idiot just elected — is enough to kill health care reform. Flashback now to 2001, when Bush 43’s noxious tax-cuts for the already obscenely wealthy, which helped bring the nation that much closer to our present financial state, were forced through the Senate by reconciliation — that allegedly foul and iniquitous practice, as Republicans call it now — on a 58-30 vote. Two years later, another round of tax cuts for Dubya’s fat cat pals went through, also by reconciliation, on a 50-50 vote, that odd 101st vote being Darth Cheney’s tiebreaker. And another veep-vote of 50-51 gave us the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.
So much for reconciliation — apparently, when the GOP uses it, it’s a legitimate legislative tool, but the Democrats refuse to touch the one potent weapon at hand. Same with the filibuster when the shoe was on the other foot a few years back. If Democrats deem the filibuster such a mighty and all-powerful weapon, and the 60-vote majority its only remedy, then why were they loath to use the filibuster themselves at times when it might have made a difference? Case in point, when John Roberts and Samuel Alito were flagrantly misrepresenting themselves as mainstream moderates before the Senate during their confirmation hearings five years ago. With the obscene and profoundly anti-democratic ruling, passed down Thursday by the Roberts-Alito Supreme Court, that frees up corporate dollars in gargantuan amounts to corrupt our political process all over again (every politician in Congress is now beholden to big money threats against their incumbency), I bet there are plenty of Dems ruing their party’s pusillanimity in those vital votes. Actual democracy got bought off and was rendered almost meaningless today. And Democrats did nothing when it might have counted. Is this ever going to change?
When a vote comes up in a Dem-controlled Congress on a matter of supreme importance, not just for the Democrats but for the nation as a whole, like health care reform, a repeatedly deferred dream of Dems these seven decades past and suddenly within grasping distance, the pantywaist Dems are all kid gloves, soft steps, and never-ending backrubs for the sociopathic vandals who want nothing but to derail it. Ah, they say, it’s not for us honest Dems to stoop to the levels of deviousness and procedural fanaticism plumbed by the most ruthless administration since Richard Nixon was compiling enemies’ lists and secretly bombing Cambodia on Christmas. No, no, we’re too dainty for all that, as we vainly struggle for bipartisanship against a political enemy that slaps away the hand of friendship at every turn.
People have to learn, and sometimes the only efficient teachers are the horse whip and the cattle prod. We did not dance hand in hand with them to the conference table and give them every last thing they wanted. Goddamnit, we beat them, just like we beat McCain last fall. We ground the Republicans to a fine dust all across the political spectrum, and yet refused to make them beg for mercy. Sherman marched across Georgia outing everything to the flame here to the horizon, entirely untroubled and unrestrained by considerations of “bipartisanship.”
And yet, since the Dems won on every front in November 2008, they’ve acted like a defeated army, not like victors. Everything that’s transpired politically since has been framed within propaganda terms entirely set by the vanquished, thus granting them full legitimacy. And Obama, in his deluded quest for bipartisanship — which, like objectivity and balance in reporting, is a rancid chimera masquerading as a twinkly utopian ideal — has repeatedly made nice with people who won’t give him an inch. Hell, he did it again Wednesday, calling for the Senate to delay moving forward on health care bills until Cosmo Nudie-Boy from Massachusetts is seated, be he naked or clad. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld would have called the Senate vote for this morning, and bludgeoned it through intact. What is wrong with us?
Elsewhere on the landscape yesterday, there was a surfeit of Democrats running around with their underwear on fire, including, depressingly, the normally two-fisted Barney Frank, usually the only guy showing Dems what a fighter really looks like. Evan Bayh was as useless and two-faced as always, ready to shoot his own party’s signature legislation in the face almost immediately as he results were in (I think we know who he’s working for, and it’s not the American people). It was a never-ending circular firing squad conducted in full public view, an Irish bar fight of mutual recrimination and denunciation. Then, of course, the GOP crowed all the livelong day about how this spelled the death of the Obama Dream, and foretold a crushing right-wing/Tea Party landslide in the 2010 midterms. The Republicans, evil and nihilistic as they are, would have presented a lock-jawed united front in public and conducted their reprisals entirely in secret, taking the guilty and quietly shooting them in the head out back by the loading-dock.
Suddenly that old Will Rogers line about belonging to “no organized political party — I’m a Democrat,” tastes like bile puked up into the mouth. I’ve spent the last year waiting for my party to grow a pair. Today, I want to borrow Jesse Jackson’s rusty gelding knife and just lop them off altogether. Obama and his enforcers seem to be living on some ethereal cloud of “hope” and “bipartisanship,” inhaling a rarified air the rest of us can’t breathe, and have pissed away all the goodwill they earned a year ago. Maybe this is the wake-up call they need. It’s time to fire some people (Treasury, I’m looking at you fools) and it’s time to fight, long hard and, just this once, dirty.
I’m not waiting up nights for that, though.
Published at The Huffington Post,  February 23, 2010

Deep in the heart of Texas, Gov. Rick Perry talks darkly of his state seceding from the union. Up in Washington meanwhile, in a Marriott “ballroom”, the participants at CPAC gathering of the red-meat far-right have long since seceded from reality. This year the grand old coots were tea baggin’ it old skool with the parodically racist, fluoride-fearing John Birch Society because, as the odious Noah Cross observes in Chinatown: “politicians, ugly buildings and whores get respectable if they stay around long enough”.
I don’t really care about CPAC during the Olympics cycle, but like a horrific car-crash featuring asphalt liberally — yeah, liberally — smeared with brains and viscera, I can’t tear my eyes away from it either. It’s a cult, that much is obvious from the severity and doggedness of the group-think on display, one nation under a collective mass-delusion, saving their hosannahs for the most rigid of the ideologues onstage. It’s also a zoo, featuring scarcely domesticated wild beasts with dripping maws and reddened fangs howling at the moon.
When Glenn Beck’s onstage giving his keynote address, it’s more like an NA meeting — as it was when Rush Limbaugh gave his herky jerky, Jim Jones on speedballs imitation in 2009 — and whenever Good Ol’ Reb Jim DeMint gets near a microphone you wish someone would just stage a hostile intervention with a butterfly net and some masking tape. In the minds of some of the younger, heartier bucks, it’s a Beer-hall Putsch for fratboys, with an evil new Weimar Republic howling its socialistic siren-song outside the meeting hall and all across the land (yeah, if only).
The Carnival of the Animals, The Insane Clown Posse, a night on Witch Mountain, Titicut Follies — CPAC is all of these, and more. They call their gathering the Woodstock of True Conservatives. I call it the All-Ages Altamont of Angry Old Farts, a kind of Total-Estrangement-From-Reality Television. In an actual oxygen-breathing, factually-verifiable reality, though, it’s the same old parade, the same full gamut of paranoid, hostile, geriatric gargoyles and dinosaurs, old-school Southern bigots, and attention-seeking young pretenders to the throne of Big Rightie, all doing variations on the same old political striptease for the rubes.
We had Tim Pawlenty trying to play the heavy and with his timorous, knock-kneed demeanor, it was a stretch for him — and calling for all good and true patriots to smash the windshield of Big Bad Government with a not-so-metaphorical nine-iron, Tiger-style (always with the golf metaphors, these rock-ribbed suburbanites). We had that fool who called tax-hating Grover Norquist to the podium whilst referencing the maniac who flew his plane into the IRS office in Austin, TX, only the day before — stay classy, CPAC! Pawlenty should take lessons in mean from Grandpa Cheney, who showed up unannounced and uncredited — just like Kevin Spacey in Se7en — to scare the little children and rile up the madly faithful after being introduced by his robotic daughter — man, the bloodlust runs red and hot in that family’s veins!
The pols who turned up pimping for red-meat votes included dejected has-beens like Rick Santorum and JC Watts (the JC stands for Julius Caesar, I kid you not), and snarling up-and-comers like Michelle Bachman and Marco Rubio. The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, the Pierre-Meter himself, Mr. Lawyers, Guns and Money — favored us with his lysergic, parallel-universe retailing of the history of gun-control legislation, and bemoaned again the weight of the liberal-facist-guv’mint boot-heel forever pressing down on the nation’s throat. All hail Dick Armey, a gravel-voiced Lee J Cobb of the Tea Party Conspiracy (Washington Branch), in fine fire-breathing form, and talking the veriest horseshit, as he often will.
And then there was that proudly homophobic young buck who chastised the conference for letting the gays in this year, then strutted the stage like some teenage nazi auditioning for concentration-camp guard, while calling out his enemies by name. You think he cares they booed him off? Wrong: his Fred Phelps-style over-the-top gay-bashing only seals his bona fides among the troops on the ground — he’ll be the king of his frathouse next semester, count on it.
And Ann Coulter — that vesuvius of vomit – who has been Cinderella at five minutes to midnight ever since Obama won — emerged from her locked bedroom where she has been guzzling bottles of Chardonnay and dreaming up more loathsome shit to spew on the rest of us next time someone remembered to invite her before a camera. It feels like she’s been gone for a decade already — and no, I hadn’t missed her at all.
Ann’s been outstripped these days by the likes of Andrew Breitbart, who can take a common little crook like James O’Keefe and act like he’s the risen ghost of Woodward and Bernstein. Breitbart is your basic liberal-apostate right-wing hustler and he’s perfected Coulter’s abysmal schtick of throwing rhetorical hand grenades and slashing insults while simultaneously bitching and moaning about how mean everybody on the left is to “real Americans.” His sense of victimhood and embattlement, the essential tool in rousing this angry, self-pitying audience, has been honed to a gleaming sharp edge. His behavior may seem outlandish, even unhinged, to those of us in the land of the sane, but at CPAC, you could mutilate kittens and puppies on stage and, with the right kind of self-pitying special pleading, convince the audience that the evil liberals made you do it.
But don’t worry, in the final analysis there’s nothing real about this ridiculous get-together except as political news-porn for the cable networks. You can tell that by examining the results of the annual straw poll they conduct of likely Presidential candidates for the next Big Show. It’s about as legitimate and grounded in reality as the contest for World’s Greatest Grandpa. This year the big winner was… Ron Paul – – and we all saw how he fared in the ’08 Election (lots of noisy fans, none of them au fait with political reality. Result: nada) He was followed, at a great distance, by empty-suit weirdo Mitt Romney And Sarah Palin limped in third with a dismal seven percent, so if she thinks she’s the hard right’s new Queen of the Night, she may have another thing coming.