Saturday, February 26, 2011

How Crazy Can They Get?

Much of the country - the moderate people who comprise the vast middle ground of US political opinion - marvel at the political excesses of the Tea Party people. I have written about them in several times before, sometimes simply reporting the facts and sometimes trying for a bit of humor. *

The Tea Party mindset is not a recent development. We have always had the far out crazies on both the radical right and left. However, these crazies were more constrained in the past, perhaps because of their sub-conscious sense of their own ridiculous radicalization. No longer. Today they are ‘mainstream’.

The rising crescendo of shrill right wing demagoguery and the demonizing of anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their regressive dogma has motivated thousands of these crazies to come out of the woodwork. They now believe - and loudly proclaim - they represent a groundswell of grassroots majority populism, even though poll numbers say otherwise. There have always been some who never hid their nuttiness, who didn’t care if others thought they were way over the edge. Recall George Wallace of Alabama, David Duke of Louisiana and the recently deceased Reverend Jerry Falwell. Falwell once said, ‘Textbooks are Soviet propaganda.” in one of his many witless proclamations. He said so many stupid things I had to laugh when Christopher Hitchens said after Falwell’s death, "If he had been given an enema, he could have been buried in a matchbox."

Tea Party populism is the ‘God, Guns and Gold’ variety, loudly and obnoxiously championed by people like Sarah Palin, and Ron Paul, and their Fox News collaborators. The Tea Party succeeded in electing a number of their people into office in the 2010 elections, and they are making themselves heard and felt, misguided as they are. A lot of these people are new to the political process, but some have been there all along. Until now, their bizarre activities have been shoved to the side or ignored. But now, newly emboldened, they are ‘mainstreaming’.

That does not make them any less bizarre however. One nut case in Georgia recently made the news when he asked his Republican Congressman Paul Broun in a public meeting: “When are we going to shoot Obama?” At the time Broun made absolutely no objection to the publicly expressed thought of shooting the sitting President of the United States.  Later, Broun tried to justify his failure to be responsible, claiming “I was stunned by the question and chose not to dignify it with a response; therefore, at that moment I moved on to the next person with a question."

R-I-I-I-G-H-T. But, not surprisingly, that’s not what really transpired. At the meeting Broun actually matter-of-factly answered the question saying, “The thing is, I know there’s a lot of frustration with this president. We’re going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we’ll elect somebody that’s going to be a conservative, limited-government president that will take a smaller, who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

That was it. That’s the new ‘normal’ for these people.  Broun's kind are not lonely in this area of Georgia. This year, the region’s Republican Georgia State Representative Bobby Franklin - who holds a 'Biblical degree' - was first in line to introduce numerous bizarre bills and resolutions to the state legislature, including but not limited to the following:

  • A bill to make women prove miscarriage or face felony charges;
  • A bill to eliminate drivers’ licenses; “"licensing of drivers cannot be required of free people because taking on the restrictions of a license require the surrender of an inalienable right.”;
  • A bill to bar state from requiring vaccinations, the ‘Freedom from Compulsory Pandemic Act’;
  • A bill to require taxpayers to pay in gold or silver only;
  • A bill prohibiting local governments from interfering with a (city) resident who wants to raise chickens, rabbits, hogs cows or goats;
  • A bill stating that since Georgia was not a party to the suit in Roe v. Wade, it is not bound by that decision. The bill defines life as beginning at conception, and abortion as murder;
  • A bill prohibiting the state from collecting income taxes;
  • A bill to change names of ‘victims’ to ‘accusers’ (as in rape ‘victims’ to ‘accusers’);
  • A bill to allow any legislator to lobby for special interests;
  • A bill to abolish Department of Human Services;
  • A bill to require property damage or bodily injury or death before citing a person for traffic violations;
  • A bill to repeal prohibition agains carrying concealed weapons in church
  • A bill to repeal prohibition agains carrying concealed weapons for post-secondary schools;
  • A bill to abolish property taxes;
  • A bill to provide that land use and zoning laws, ordinances, and resolutions shall be prohibited;
  • A RESOLUTION informing a Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice that Georgia is a republic, not a democracy.
This is completely nuts, and unbelievable to any rational person, I know. Anyone except Tea Partier types would consider this guy as certifiable - yet he is routinely justified and defended in our right wing blogosphere. More bizarre yet is that that this is routine for Bobby Franklin, who has been elected over and over, and is now serving his EIGHTH consecutive term!

No one should be surprised however. This region also produced Newt Gingrich, who ‘shut down’ the government once before, and also US Representative Larry McDonald (a ‘conservative Democrat’!) who died when Korean Air Lines flight 007 was shot down over Russia in 1983. McDonald also just happened to be the President of the John Birch Society at the time, and was considered as the second most conservative member in Congress - behind Ron Paul!

The Republican Party is desperately trying to get ahead of what they perceive, correctly in my opinion, as a movement which can engulf them. They are trying to 'embrace' the crazies in order to preserve their party, but in the process finding themselves being moved so far right as to make the GOP increasingly irrelevant. That's the danger in trying to ride a wild horse. The so-called Tea Partiers themselves are too radical ever to be a party in their own right. Mainstream America simply will not tolerate their excesses for long.  They will end up sucking the life out of the GOP

We know where the crazies are. They live among us - and are trying to convince everyone they are the new normal. But, that just ain't so. . . and never will be.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

The Devil went prospecting in Ohio Amish country, but found the going very rough. Virtually none of his regular, routine come-ons worked in the least. He tried illicit sex and alcohol and fame. He tried mercenary greed and avarice, cheating, lying, and offers of gold and money. Nothing he did enticed any of the Amish folk to sell their souls, even the very young and gullible. After four days of hard work, and burning through nearly a month’s worth of his expense account, he added only one poor rotten soul to his account - the daughter of the local sheriff, who hardly counted at all since her daddy had already been on his rolls for years.
“What the Hell am I doing wrong?” he wailed to the sheriff over a beer in the sheriff’s kitchen. “You’d think this would be prime territory here, with almost everyone calling themselves Christians, and poor simple folk.”
“Well, the Amish are sort of a special case.” said the sheriff. “You see, they might be uneducated and poor, but they have very strong faith in each other. They know as long as they are in the community everyone will look out for each other, including them. They grow their own food, make their own clothes and they don’t need or want TV’s or cars, nor nothing like that, and each one of them believes it’s uppity to have more than their neighbors. Heck, they don’t even want electricity. I’m not surprised at all you can’t come up with recruits here.”
“And you know, I have to tell you the damned Amish sure make my job very hard here. it’s really hard to justify your job when you don’t have any business to report. The only crimes I can come up with are tickets for not having the lanterns lit on their buggies at night. Sometimes I feel guilty taking my salary, crooked as I may be. I tell you, it’s enough to make you arrest yourself for something.”
“But, what should I do?” complained the Devil. “I can’t go home with just one soul on the books.”
“I was you, I’d find me another prospecting hole.” said the sheriff.
The Devil agreed. And, having no better way, and no good access to the internet in Amish country, he simply closed his eyes and stabbed his finger on the map.
“Macon, Georgia.” he announced.  The sheriff drove him to the Greyhound Bus station and he bought a ticket.
Happily, he made six converts on the trip to Macon, which took two and a half days what with changes and all. In fact, he was so successful he almost bought another ticket there to continue prospecting on busses, but he didn’t. He got off the bus as planned. The Devil believed in planning.
Looking up the local county sheriff, who he knew he could count on as a previous convert, he asked about local prospects.
“Wal, I just don’t know,” said the sheriff. “Folks ‘round here is mighty Christian like.”
“Overall, I’ve had pretty good luck with Christians.”said the Devil, trying very hard to look at his glass half-full.
“Yeah but, these here folks is hardshell Baptists and primitive Southern Methodists and Holiness folks and all such as that. They’s mighty strong Christians, them is.”
“I guess I’ll just have to take my chances.” said the Devil as he headed out.
The first prospect he tried was a local lawyer and deacon of the First Baptist church.
“Hell, I’ve been signed up since ’64.” said the deacon. The Devil checked his database, and sure enough the man was. He’d have to do better than this.
“But, I was you,” continued the deacon. “I’d check with Miss Sally, the organist. She’s been putting on the airs lately. She might be a candidate.”
And, she was. Miss Sally had decided she didn’t really want to live her life out as the wife of the local druggist, member of the PTA and a mousy church organist. She wanted to live a little, enjoy fine clothes, travel, wine, great food and the nicer things in life. She signed on the dotted line eagerly and immediately. She also referred her friend, the local undertaker, who she’d been sleeping with during the day for several years while his wife thought he was working down in the embalming room. The undertaker also signed - and referred someone else.
And, so it went. Within three days the Devil signed up the entire membership of the First Baptist Church except for two, and they were the two mentally challenged people the church kept on their rolls for show. And, many of the the new recruits referred people in the other churches in town, the Methodists, the Holiness, the Church of Goders, Assembly of Goders and so on, even the Latter Day Saints. Within one month, the devil signed up much of the population of metropolitan Macon, Georgia old enough to sign.  
The only ones of any real challenge at all were the atheists and agnostics, who said they didn’t believe in all that hellfire and brimstone bullshit. And, even there the Devil made his offers so attractive some of them signed.
The Devil made a few quick prospecting trips to Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina. Based on the results, the Devil immediately rented office space in downtown Macon for a regional headquarters, hired some lawyers and preachers for help, and entered into the most successful run in his career of many thousands of years.
And, that’s how the Devil ended up with a vacation home in Georgia.

Another Norwegian Goes to Hell

A crusty and profane old Norwegian named Lars finally died, much to the vast relief of his family and all who knew him. Lars was stubborn, nasty, mean and contentious, and loved nothing whatever better than a good ruckus. He was forever starting up something with anyone he could seduce into a good fight. He fought with his wife, his children, his friends, his neighbors, the town council and the Internal Revenue Service and holy men of any stripe. Sometimes he fought with the postman or the paperboy. If no one was around to fight with, he often fought with himself.

The old bastard lived on far longer than expected but one day ultimately he succumbed in his final and terminal argument with a train. He was therefore in a foul mood when he arrived at the Pearly Gates.

“Uff da! Open the goddamned door!” he shouted. “I’m hurting all over! What do I have to do to get some goddamned decent service around here?”

Old Saint Peter, who was accustomed to a far more subservient attitude from those arriving at the gate was a little non-plussed.

“Just hold your horses a minute! All in good time. We have to check your records. We can’t let just anyone waltz right in here you know. This is Heaven.”

“Well, get on it then goddammit! I don’t have all goddamned day! I told you I’m hurting. Where’s your frigging manager?”

“I am the manger.” said Saint Peter gamely, though sorely tried. “I run everything you know. My other name is God.”

“Yeah well, that don’t cut it with me, shithead. I’ve heard all the damned preacher crap I wanted to hear before and I ain’t interested. What’d you say your goddamned name was again?”

“God. Saint Peter. The Holy Ghost.”

“Yeah, right, and I'm the frigging Pope too. I heard the same kind of crap from Jerry Falwell, and Jim Bakker and Ted Haggard and a whole bunch of other of those god-hollers before. Don’t mean nothing to me. Bunch of damned lying-assed cheating frauds if you ask me.”

“Well, many holy men are enjoying living in Heaven with me right now, and I’ll soon be calling others home.” said God evenly, trying hard to remain calm. “Jerry Falwell is here right now for example.”

“That sanctimonious bastard?” spewed the old Norwegian. “I ain’t living anywhere that fraud is. Kick that son of a bitch out if you expect me to do business with you.”

God, now having checked the record book and had all he could take, made his decision, saying very sternly. “Can’t do that, and you don’t have a choice anyway. Jerry has earned his wings and you very obviously haven’t. So, I’m sending you to the other place. Straight to Hell in other words. I've decided you won’t even need to stop by Limbo on the way.”

“Suits the Hell out of me!” the Norwegian sneered.

“KHAZAAM! ZAP!” The Norwegian found himself standing before a leering red monster with horns on his head and holding a red hot trident in one hand.

“Welcome, Lars.” said the evilly grinning specter.

“Now, just who in Hell do you think YOU are?” demanded Lars.

“I’m Lucifer, The Devil, that would be *Gammel Erik to you Norwegians.”

“RIIIGGHHT.” said Lars. “And, I'm the frigging Pope like I told that other shithead. Anyway, where’s my goddamned room?”

“You don’t get a room in Hell. You get a cast iron cot with spikes, and it has wheels so we can roll you back and forth between the furnace and the freezer.”

“Let’s start with freezer then.” said the Norwegian. “I’m already sweating just standing here talking to your dumb ass.”

“You don’t get a choice here either.” said Lucifer with a snarl. “Just for that I’m starting you off on the furnace grates.”

“Says you! I’ll sue yer goddamned ass off!”

Lucifer said, “Yeah, right. I’m the judge, jury and executioner here sucker!” and laughed maliciously as one of his primary helpers, Richard Milhous Nixon, dragged poor old Lars away complaining loudly.

Half an hour later the Nixon was back and said, “Hey Boss. We’ve got a big problem down on grate number four where I took that freaking old Norwegian.”

“Wassamatta, Dickeyboy?” asked the Devil. Nixon was one of his favorites along with Adolph Hitler and Dan Rostenkowski.

“Well Boss, when we put him on the grate he just grinned, and when the fires got hot he just went to sizzling and popping like all get out. Turns out he’s full of Lutefisk oil and rum and that stuff blew the back wall out of the furnace. Now, the whole damned shitterree is shut down for who knows how long, and that damned Norwegian is all of a sudden the hero of everyone in Hell. If we had an election right now he beat the bejesus out of you, Boss.”

Lucifer frowned. “So, what’d you do with him?”

“I got him over in the freezer now and he acts like he's at a party. He’s running around in a thong and has him a couple of those cute porn actresses and they are all cuddled up over there having a ball. I don’t know where he got it but he’s got rum enough for years.”

“Well, Jesus H. Jehosephat Christ!” swore the Devil. “That Son of a bitch had a car load of rum when the train hit him. I just hate those damned old Norwegians, dammit all to Hell. I guess we’re just gonna have to move him over to the Country Club section with the other old Norwegians. I guess it’s the only way we can keep peace in Hell.”

A resigned Nixon sighed deeply and turned back to his duty. This new job was pretty damned vexing and today was just one more long horrible, tiring day in Hell. Things had certainly seemed entirely better back on Earth, even while being impeached.

* ‘Gammel Erik’ is the Norwegian nickname for the devil, equivalent to ‘Lucifer’ in English.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

I Dreamed I Went to Heaven

As an agnostic, I was very disturbed to dream about going to Heaven a few nights ago. After a traffic wreck I found myself at the Pearly Gates and wondered if maybe I was wrong about Christianity after all.
At the gates, I met a unkempt bunch of people, all male, from the Montana Militia, or possibly Posse Comitatas. They wore dirty, unpressed military fatigues and carried automatic weapons but were not very military in bearing. Being an ex-Marine I notice such things. These guys were about the sloppiest bunch of ‘troops’ I ever saw. They were unhappy with me, putting me in a holding cell to be interviewed by God’s lieutenant.
The lieutenant turned out to be Jerry Falwell, dressed in a flowing velvet robe and wearing expensive crocodile sandals, and at least a dozen heavy gold rings with expensive stones, a golden garland on his head, and carrying a golden scepter in his left hand. A sweet young alter boy accompanied him carrying a huge, gilt-edged bible. Falwell asked about my Christianity. I pride myself on being honest, so told Lieutenant Falwell the truth - I don’t believe in god, or christianity. 
“What if I can prove God exists, beyond any doubt?” he asked. “And, not only that, but that he is a Christian God, and part of the Holy Trinity and all that stuff?”
“Well, it sure would go a long way towards changing my mind if you can.” I admitted.
“OK, then, here we go.” he said.
“First, God knows and cares about everything that goes on, every person, every animal, every blade of grass, and the very sparrows in the air. His love is like loving hands which cup you and protect you from harm.”
“If that’s true,” I asked. “how come I’m here in the first place? If God loves me, how come I’m dead and standing here with you now?”
“God simply called you home. He could have easily protected you in that wreck and left you on Earth. It was just your time.”
“But, why me?” I wondered. “I’ve always lived honestly and was kind to others. I’ve loved, respected and protected my wife and kids. I ran a business which provided a living for many others, every one of whom I’ve always treated with dignity and respect, and always paid my taxes.”
“Yeah but, did you go to church and tithe?” he asked. “Are you Republican?”
“Well, there you go!” said lieutenant Falwell. “There’s three good reasons right there. I’m not speaking for God, mind you, just saying that might be why.”
“What’s being Republican got to do with it?” I wondered.
“God loves Republicans. It’s easy to scare the bejesus out of them if you’ll pardon the expression. Republicans get spooked like sheep when somebody like me tells them anything. Only Republican politicians go straight to Hell, with no questions asked. And, if you ain’t Republican you get interviewed like you are now.”
“OK then,” I said. “If God protects all the innocents, how’s about an airplane crash which kills everybody on board, even if some are preachers, or innocent little children?”
“God works in mysterious ways and does not give a reason when he calls someone home, even little children. Besides, sometimes God lets an airplane crash and saves everyone on board. That’s an example of his miracles. You recall a crash that happened a couple years ago when a plane went down in the East River at New York City and not a single person died? That was God’s miracle, and proof right there of God’s love. They said people were saved because an experienced pilot named Sullenberger was driving that airplane and knew all the right things to do. But, just why do you think Sully was flying that day?”
“‘Cause he was on the duty roster?” I asked hopefully.
“Well, just why do you think he was on the duty roster?” Falwell quickly retorted.
I could see just where this was going, so changed course. “OK, what about other crashes including airplanes, cars, boats, bicycles, motorcycles and whatnot happening all over the world the very same day?”
“God works in mysterious ways I said. We mortals may not question God who always has his reasons and doesn’t explain them to anyone.”
“Seems like he’s mighty highhanded to me, and that God’s disasters outnumber his miracles about a hundred to one.” I observed.
“I’m beginning to think you’re not good heavenly material.” sniffed Falwell.
“Well actually, I might not be.” I admitted.”What’s Heaven like anyhow?”
“Oh, it’s wonderful!” gushed Falwell. “We visit around with other Christians, play a lot of golf, watch a lot of TV - just religious channels you understand, and sports, and no fornicating, swearing or drinking. We don't allow queers or lesbians either.”
“Doesn’t sound like any fun at all to me.” I mused.
“Well, you can smoke, men can at least. But of course, women aren’t allowed to smoke.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Well that doesn’t deserve an answer if you don’t know that.”
“I guess I don’t.” I said. “I thought ‘all were equal in His sight’.”
“Well, obviously some are more equal than others.” said Falwell. “Women are lucky to be in Heaven at all, and if they won’t submit to menfolk, they can’t be. God doesn’t take any sass or back talk. It’s in the Good Book. And another thing, no Jews or Muslims, or any other of those so-called other religions are allowed. We let in some Catholics and Mexican Christians, but wall them off in their own sections. Everybody’s happier that way.
“Doesn’t God like diversity?” I asked.
“Not particularly, and especially not if it bothers real Christians, which actually means white, American, Republicans.”
“No black people? Lot’s of them are Christians I’ve heard.”
“Nope. Got their own section next to the wetbacks.” he said. “But right now, I’m nearly convinced we need to go ahead and transfer your ass straight to Hell. So before I decide, just one more question: Do you claim to be white?”
“Well, I am Norwegian.”
“Well, by God that clinches it!” he snorted. “Off you go! Even if the devil is raising hell about sending any more damned Norwegians down there. Says they actually like the place.”
“Suits the ever-loving Hell out of me!” I said happily.