Saturday, May 24, 2008

When the Buzzwords Fail

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I tell you, folks, last week was not a good one for the favorite buzzwords of the Far Right.

We start with one of those favorite rhetorical bugbears of the wingnut, the so-called "unelected judge." Whenever a legal decision doesn't go their way, the cry goes up by the politicos of the GOP torch-and-pitchfork brigade: "unelected judges!"

It was no different recently when California's Supreme Court struck down that state's ban on gay marriage on state constitutional grounds.

U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, House minority whip, fumed with clockwork predictability: "Today, the decision of unelected judges to overturn the will of the people of California on the question of same-sex marriage demonstrates the lengths that unelected judges will go to to substitute their own worldview for the wisdom of the American people."

See that? He got the buzzword in twice. I think they get some kind of bonus if they do that. Or maybe Dick Cheney just promises not to shoot you for a whole year .

Well, Roy, old son, there's only one problem. The judges who voted to overturn the ban are, it's true, appointed by the duly elected governor, but they then have to be approved by a vote of the people at the next general election. In fact, all of the seven justices participating in the decision were elected by 69 percent or greater of the voters.

So much for "unelected judges," and so much for the idea that the leadership of the House Republicans has the foggiest idea what it's talking about.

Then you had poor right-wing talk show host Kevin James, who on Chris Matthews' "Hardball" show on MSNBC began literally screaming at the top of his lungs the moment he was allowed to speak about how Barack Obama was another "appeaser like Neville Chamberlain" for his position that the U.S. should have talks with Iran.

Matthews asked, not once but several times, if James actually knew who Neville Chamberlain was and if he knew what Chamberlain had done that constituted appeasement. I won't bore you with the five minutes of twisting, dodging, and outright ignoring of the question that James engaged in, but suffice it to say that the answer was, "No, James had not the slightest idea what Neville Chamberlain actually did that could actually be called appeasement of Adolf Hitler." (Hint: It involved giving up half of Czechoslovakia.)

If simply sitting down and talking with enemies is enough to constitute "appeasement," then let's look at some other famous "appeasers" in history.

Ronald Reagan: The patron saint of the right presided over an administration that conducted numerous high-level meetings with a state that supported terrorism, actually had nuclear weapons that were actually pointed right at us, and who had threatened to destroy us in the name of their ideology. (That would be the Soviet Union, in case you didn't know.) Oh, the shame! Oh, the appeasement! We even, horror of horrors, had an actual embassy, with ambassadors and everything, in the heart of the enemy capital!

But St. Ronald never sat down and talked with any Iranians, by golly, at least according to Sen. John McCain. Well, I suppose that's true, since the hostages were released at the moment he became president. It should be noted, however, that what St. Ronald DID do was approve the sale of weapons to Iran, including sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles that could have been used against American planes, and state-of-the art anti-tank missiles that could have been used against American armor. But he never did talk to them, that's true. That would have been appeasement (insert eye-roll here).

George Bush the Elder: James Baker, Poppy Bush's former secretary of state, made, by his own count, 15 trips to Syria in 1990 and 1991 -- at a time when Syria was on the list as a "state sponsor of terrorism."

And, he noted in a 2006 interview, " On the 16th trip Syria changed 25 years of policy and agreed for the first time in history to come sit at the table with Israel, which is what Israel wanted at the time. And, thereby, implicitly recognized Israel's right to exist." Talking to an enemy, he said, is not appeasement: "You don't just talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies, as well. And the diplomacy involves talking to your enemies."

But Reagan and Bush the Elder came from another time for the Republican Party, a time that the GOP, whatever its other faults, was at least run by grownups and not by mouth-breathers who have trouble articulating any concept that can't be reduced to a bumper sticker. What will they do now that the buzzwords are failing them?

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage. His third novel, "Safe and Sound" will be released in paperback on June 3.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Final Straw

Clinton Invokes RFK Assassination:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton invoked the memory of slain Democratic candidate Robert F. Kennedy as she explained her persistence in the Democratic race on Friday, saying that although the media and the Barack Obama campaign have been trying to usher her from the race, "historically, that makes no sense."

"We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California," Clinton said in a meeting with the editorial board of the Argus Leader, a newspaper in South Dakota.

You know, however much she may try to wriggle out of it, there's no mistaking the meaning:

"Hey, I'm staying in 'cause someone could pull a James Earl Ray on the black guy."

Anyone who's read this blog knows I'm no Clinton hater. I've taken her side against some of the more ridiculous attacks. But her campaign has sunk farther and farther into the gutter and her more virulent supporters have revealed an ugly racist side that's turned me off even further. She's turned into Karl Rove in a dress, and I have to say, at this point, I think I would do the unthinkable.

I'd stay home on Election Day if she was the nominee.

That's not an easy thing for me to say. But when McCain starts looking like the one who's less likely to stoop to the kind of nasty bullshit the Rethuglican Brownshirts have practiced for so long... I'd rather NOT vote than vote for her.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Karma's a Bitch, Ain't She?

Boy band creator sentenced to 25 years in prison

ORLANDO, Fla. - Lou Pearlman, the man who created the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years in federal prison for engineering a decades-long scam that bilked thousands of investors out of their life savings.

It was the maximum sentence the boy band mogul could receive for allegedly swindling some $300 million from investors and banks since the early 1980s.

He pleaded guilty in March to two counts of conspiracy and single counts of money laundering and presenting a false claim in bankruptcy court.

U.S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp noted that many victims were Pearlman's relatives, friends and retirees in their 70s or 80s who lost everything.

"The sympathy factor just doesn't run very high with the court," Sharp said.

Actually, I'd have liked to see the sumbitch locked up for "Bye Bye Bye," but we take what we can get.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Weird America: Vacation Spots for the Intrepid Traveler

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Well, it's that time of year again.

The trees are blooming, the birds are singing, the sap is rising, and the minds of most Americans turn to thoughts of packing up the car, kenneling the pets (or getting a neighbor to come by and feed them), and getting away from it all for a few days. So, as we always do about this time every year, we bring you our guide to American's weirdest vacation destinations:

*Ramp festivals: I regret to say that, by this time of year, most of the South's Ramp Festivals have already taken place. But you can still make the one in Crossnore, N.C., on May 24 and 25.

What's a Ramp Festival, You may ask? It's where you go to eat a whole mess of ramps, silly. And what's a ramp? A ramp is a kind of wild onion, also known as the wild leek. They grow, according to Wikipedia, from South Carolina to Canada, and they've been a staple of the diet in Appalachia for hundreds of years.

The taste has been described as like a "garlicky onion," and there are all sorts of ways to prepare them Unfortunately, though, no matter how you fix them, there's one problem with ramps: They make you smell bad.

Now, it would seem to me that, if you were going to have a festival celebrating something like this, it would be to proclaim, "Thanks be to God that we have a modern food distribution network, so we no longer have to eat something that makes us smell like Satan's gym socks," but tradition is a powerful thing.

As for me, the only way I'm getting near one of these shindigs is to approach it from upwind.

*The Screaming Giant: If you've got a hankering to see a giant metal statue of a screaming bearded man trying to claw his way out of the earth, I'm afraid you're going to have to drive a little farther than you used to.

"The Awakening," a profoundly disturbing statue by sculptor J. Seward Johnson Jr., was originally placed in Washington's Hain's Point Park back in the Reagan years. Apparently the Park Service was never all that crazy about it. Go figure.

In February, a billionaire developer named Milton Peterson laid out 725,000 simoleons for the frantic colossus and moved it to his ritzy new development in National Harbor, Md., where it writhes in all its frozen, mute agony next to the marina and restaurants. Because, you know, there's nothing I want to see more while I'm scarfing down my crab-cakes than a titanic statue of a guy who looks like he's been buried alive. Rich people are weird.

*World's Largest Ball of Twine: It amazes me that, for all the years I've been doing this feature, I've never done a bit on the most classic of all roadside attractions: the world's largest ball of twine. Sisal twine, to be exact.

Well, wait no longer, and my apologies for the delay. It's in Cawker City, Kan. It weighs almost nine tons. It's not particularly interesting-looking. But it is an awful lot of twine.

* The Burger King Vampire Peacock Memorial: In June 2007, a real, live peacock wandered into the parking lot of a Burger King in Staten Island, N.Y., and was promptly beaten to death before a horrified crowd by an insane homeless man who announced he was killing a vampire.

Now, something that weird can't go without being memorialized in some way. So a retired shop teacher from Staten Island named Charles Johnson decided he'd carve a life-size peacock out of elm, decorate it with actual feathers from his own peacocks, haul it to New York from his new home in Virginia, and donate it to the Burger King.

And so he did, and there it sits, in the BK at the corner of Page Avenue and Amboy Road. You can see it to this day. Watch out for insane homeless guys. And the fish sandwich. That thing is nasty.

*The Martian Invasion Memorial: Remember when the Martians landed in 1938? The people of Grover's Mill, N.J., sure do, or at least they remember the hubbub caused by the Orson Welles radio hoax that convinced Americans that nasty Martians with heat rays had landed in their little corner of rural Jersey before being felled by the common cold.

So they've put up a plaque showing a pre-morbid-obesity Welles declaiming into a microphone while a terrified family cowers before the radio. Unfortunately, the water tower that local rubes blasted with shotguns after mistaking it for a Martian war machine has fallen to ruin.

OK, it may not sound like much, but what else are you going to do if you find yourself in Grover's Mill, N.J.?

Happy traveling!

Special question for blogreaders: Where's the weirdest place you've ever been on vacation?