Sunday, April 25, 2010

Gay Caballeros

It would only figure that being gay would also make you bi-partisan. Or so says a trough of bilge named William Gheen, (pronounced like the serial killer), who is the head of the South Carolina branch of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC). This "Up is Down" method of reverse labelling used to be called "Orwellian" until the Michael Jordan of bizzarro sloganeering, Frank Luntz, emerged to advise the GOP. So, ALIPAC is merely Luntzian for "Round 'em up, load 'em up, and move 'em out." Even professional xenophobe Lou Dobbs was offended by Gheen's jaw-dropping speech to a Greenville, S.C. Tea Party rally, demanding that Senator Lindsey Graham, "Come out of that log cabin closet," and, "tell people about your alternative lifestyle and your homosexuality." If that weren't sufficient nastiness for one speech, the Gheen slime creature continued, "I need to figure out why you're trying to sell-out your own countrymen, and I need to be sure you being gay isn't it." In a state famous for political luminaries like Strom "Jungle Fever" Thurmond, and Governor Mark "The Gaucho" Sanford, this money-changer Gheen has publicly accused the senator of being manipulated by blackmail to maintain "his secret." The days of blackmailing a public official over their sexuality have pretty much ended in this country, all except for one place; the Republican party.

There's a documentary film worth seeing, readily available on cable TV, called, "Outrage", which proves it's hard out there for a closeted, gay Republican. Gay activists weary of legislators living one way and voting another, gathered witnesses to provide anecdotal evidence that some of the GOP's fiercest opponents of same-sex marriage and gay rights are themselves, closeted gays. Rumors about the bachelor Sen. Graham's sexuality are common D.C. gossip fodder, but this unprovoked and cruel public attack occurred not because ALIPAC is so concerned about Graham's conduct in the bed chamber, as in the senate chamber. Not that I savor defending a red-state conservative who called the health care reform bill, "A ponzi scheme," but Graham is one of the few remaining Republicans who, on occasion, will work with members of the opposite party for the benefit of the country. This dying breed was known in a previous century as a "moderate." The mean Mr. Gheen must think that "reaching across the aisle" means something else.

The right's outrage over Lindsey Graham results from his co-sponsorship of an immigration reform bill with N.Y. liberal Democrat Chuck Schumer. Queerbaiting is merely the surest and fastest way to rile up the rubes into indignant opposition, and the insinuation that Graham is somehow being coerced into working with the Democrats sounds like the plot from a cold-war espionage movie. Judging from the roaring response from the Tea Party crowd, however, it seems gays are among the last groups that it is still safe to publicly demonize. Curiously, the anti-gay sentiment currently afoot is very much in tune with this camouflage fashion phase among Tea Party males. The most vocal homophobes are middle-aged men that don't seem to have the same problem with lesbianism. Some of them probably spent hard-earned cash watching women touch one another in one of Washington's wicked flesh parlors as soon as the rally was over. See, they're not really anti-gay; they're anti-sodomy. A good old boy dreads the prostate exam and doesn't go fishing in the Erie Canal. Consequently, a former  Senator like Wyoming's Larry Craig can deny his homosexuality because, like a teenage girl, he believes that if there's no penetration, it's not really sex.

Openly gay Congressman Barney Frank has endured all the slings and arrows from his critics, yet remains an effective Democratic advocate, while Republican Governor Charlie Crist of Florida, outed as a closeted gay in the aforementioned documentary, is about to be hounded from the party. The Tea Party has declared jihad on those Republicans they determine to be insufficiently conservative and there's an ethnic-cleansing taking place to purge the ranks of the weakhearted.  But, screaming "homo" at Lindsey Graham wasn't really about sexuality, it was about immigration. I guess if you can get mud on several groups at once with just one swipe of the brush, all the better. Nothing gets the Tea Party mob's blood up faster than a hot-tempered tub-thumper railing against illegal immigrants or homosexuals, and if you're a gay Mexican, God help you. The true outrage is that confessed whoremongers like David Vitter and John Ensign remain in Congress, unscathed by the censure of their colleagues, while honorable men like Sen. Graham, who served six years in the Air Force and in the JAG Corps during the Gulf War, are smeared by the "new right."

This sort of open ugliness is part of the reason why sane people question the Tea Party's motives. They call for less intrusive federal government, but demand an unconditional ban on abortion; They want a smaller government while we fight two wars with an economy on life support,  but without touching Social Security, Medicare, or the military budget; They believe in the principle of state's rights, yet favor a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. And when a state grants powers to the police to detain and demand identification from anyone, at any time, and for any reason, that is called "Fascism." It's what the "Greatest Generation" sacrificed nearly 300,000 men to fight against in WWII. But then again, Arizona produced Barry Goldwater and was the last state to acknowledge a holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King; and a war hero like John McCain has to re-animate his Frankenstein monster, Sarah Palin, to help him win a Republican primary. There is an angry, anti-incumbent mood in the air and the Democrats will undoubtedly lose seats in 2010. But should the Tea Party confuse that for a personal victory and continue polluting the air with their public vitriol, they will share the same destiny as the Dixiecrats in 1948. Or as their candidate, old Strom Thurmond, used to call them between visits to his sweet thang, "real Americans."

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Zombie Holiday

If there were to be an officially declared National Day of Dread, it would be today. Not 12/7/41, or 11/22/63, or even 9/11/01;  but today. Skinheads and Neo-Nazis observe the birthday of Adolph Hitler each April 19th, and have been noted to celebrate with the occasional mini-pogrom.  For anti-government "patriots" and defenders-of-the-faith militia groups, 4/19 is Easter for paranoid conspiracy theorists. On this date in 1993, the apocalyptic conflagration at the Branch Davidian compound at Waco occurred, proving to many that the end times are near and the government's out to snuff you, rather than a bungling ATF and a new Attorney General trying to flex her muscles allowing an already tragic situation to escalate into a catastrophe.

Domestic terrorist Tim McVeigh watched the Waco fiasco unfold while sitting outside the compound on the hood of his car and used the date two years later to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma City in retaliation. And two zit-faced, Hitler Facebook fans commemorated the date by acting out their sociopathic,"Terminator" fantasies and killing a lot of other people's children while trying to blow up their high school. April 19 has become a touchstone for the disgruntled and delusional, like a psychotic Halloween run amok, and every year since Waco, plots and plans for copycat carnage have been uncovered and the criminals incarcerated. This year, however, presents a clear and present danger. Anti-government hysteria is at its highest levels since the Great Depression and the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that militia activity has risen 244% since the last presidential election. The arrest of members of the Hutaree militia in Michigan faded from the news before group associates in Ohio and Indiana were likewise arrested for conspiracy to murder a police officer and slaughter the mourners at the funeral.

What makes this year different is that a mainstream media outlet is actively promulgating confrontation with the government. Fox News' ratings soar on false tales of  FEMA detention camps, jail cells for health care scofflaws, census takers compiling enemies lists, and a president with a secret agenda to surreptitiously damage the nation. Stories of gun confiscation and clandestine planning for a socialist takeover of government are fomented every day on the airwaves by corporate media interests, and even the fabricated Tea Party movement has been co-opted by Republican operatives and right-wing PACs. Image and semantic consultants on the Tea Party Express magical mystery tour have tried to clean up the overt insanity at their rallies like Brian Epstein cleaned up the Beatles, but didn't we only just have a dust-up over lipstick, pigs, and hockey moms? And now we see that many of the Teabaggers are sensitive and distressed about being called angry bigots and racists. They claim legitimate concerns over fiscal policy and say if reporters would only talk to a cross-section of supporters, they would understand the libertarian concerns through all the hand-made signs with Obama and Hitler references. Well, the jig is up. reports memos showing the Tea Party Express is a creation of the California public relations firm Russo, Marsh + Rogers, doing business as the "Our Country Deserves Better" PAC, and tripling their donations since the wingnut tour hit the road. The latest New York Times/CBS poll says that of the 18% of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement, the majority are older, more educated, and affluent white men who feel that their rights are under siege. Living in the South, I know 100 guys just like that. They used to be hippies until the styles changed, so they went into business and began paying taxes, and that altered everything. A generation that used sharing as a guiding principle, strapped on their neckties, went to work, and got saddled in debt. Now they believe that Obama wants to take something from them that they have worked for, and give it to someone who has not. Nothing is sadder than watching an intelligent, idealistic young person transform themselves into another border-line alcoholic Republican with issues about welfare. My Dad used to say, "This is a great country, but the dues are expensive." Today, spurred on by profit-gobbling, exhibitionistic, media fools, wanton criminals who fly their private planes into IRS headquarters, killing a bunch of mommies and daddies in the process, are defended by elected officials.

I would suggest that if you don't wish to be falsely labelled as racist, then don't be on the same side as the authentic ones. If you lie down with those possessed of incoherent hatred, you rise up with the potential for deadly violence. Which is why Fox News, fringe PACS run by people like Dick Armey, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and new Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, should be aware of their public responsibilities during this volatile time and temper their fatalistic rhetoric, lest they end up with blood on their hands. If overly ambitious politicians and professional media agitators realized that words have real world consequences, today might just be another Spring day. As it is, it's a time for particular vigilance, extremely so for all those "real Americans" who also happen to work for the government, and shame on any official who squeezes lighter fluid on this burning fire on this day. In the current climate of the armed and paranoid, the threat to the country is not so much from terrorists outside of our borders, as from those within. As for me, I've made my plans for the day. I'll be right here if you need me.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cage Match Golf

I understand that television viewership for the Masters' Golf Tournament was up 50% since Tiger Woods decided to participate. Maybe fans thought he would be chased down the fairway by galleries of persistent process servers, but the crowds at Augusta care far less if you cheat on your wife than if you cheat on your scorecard. That would be unforgivable. So, the drama was minimal and the right lefty won without a whole lot of suspense. In fact, the final round was so lacking in leader-board thrills that all the new tabloid golf aficionados might have gotten bored, which got me thinking of ways to make the game more exciting for its future survival.

First, let's get some helmets and a few strategic pads on these guys and have a different golfer tee off every 45 seconds. This forces the athlete to sprint after his shot and hit it again, lest he be struck from behind. Someone slow like John Daly can make up for it by driving out the players in front of him. And none of this "whose away" stuff either. Everybody hits all at once and races to the hole while the gallery holds out cups of cold water. To accomplish this, we get rid of both the bulky golf bag and the caddy. Every player gets four clubs; a wood, an iron, a wedge and a putter, which they must carry in a quiver strapped across their backs. Let them use their skills like my high school teacher who was a Christian Brother. Because his vows of poverty prevented him from owning a set of expensive clubs, he had one club with a 5-way adjustable club-face. By restricting the number of clubs, the need for poofy wood covers with tassels will be eliminated. What kind of man puts pom poms on his wood, anyway? Instead of an all-day affair, we could wrap this thing up by lunchtime and the winner will be determined by the combined low score and fastest time, with the least severe injuries.

Because our world is an unruly place, relax the rules on crowd noise. If a pitcher has to throw a strike, or a basketball player has to sink a free throw with 60,000 people screaming obscenities at them, let these boys swing away to the sounds of a howling mob and the occasional blast of an air-horn. To be fair, the golfer should receive extra points for striking spectators, and for hitting anyone yelling, "You 'da man," an instant cash bonus is deserved. Because of recent events, however, anyone shouting "Get in the hole" at Tiger Woods will be escorted from the grounds. Since golfers deserve to get as dirty as rugby players, replace the illogically conceived sand-traps with the more natural mud-trap and let them hack around barefoot in there for a while. The good thing is you don't need to rake when you're finished. The surface will just ooze back to level on its own. The rough can be made far more challenging than merely hitting from tall grass. Fence the rough in with rodents and reptiles to really test the courage of the wayward swinging golfer, and rather than fairway trees, build a few tire fires to obscure the view of the flag. Since obstacles are a treasured feature of miniature golf, there's no reason a few windmills can't be erected along with some giant clown heads with gaping mouths for marksmanship.

Today's tournament professionals are just not dressing as flamboyantly as their predecessors, who often resembled rental party clowns. Like every other sport, the uniform should be uniform for all. Baseball and football uniforms only vary in color and graphics. I recall the late Payne Stewart making a fashion statement in his throwback "plus fours," knee socks, and cat hat, cutting a dashing, Gatsbyesque figure. All golfers should therefore wear 1930s attire in tribute to the legendary Bobby Jones, with knickers, argyle stockings, and a proper sweater vest. Then no one in the locker room can object if someone yells, "Where my knickers at?"

Because of the new, tight schedule, there will be no more rain delays. Helmeted men sloshing through a thunderstorm carrying metal sticks only adds to the excitement. And if they wish to call a fairway hazard a "bunker," allow mercenaries from Blackwater to defend them from the club-wielding hordes. Golf courses take up entirely too much land, so future links will consist of only nine holes while retaining the ability to play 18. The competitors will simply play the front nine from tee to green, then turn around and play the back nine from green to tee. The arrangement becomes particularly exciting when the rounds overlap and the golfers are actually hitting at each other. This way, a player going into the final hole down by four strokes can still win if the leader is disabled and can't complete the competition.

The presently confusing descriptions of scoring need simplification. The terms ace, eagle, and birdie will remain the same, but, staying with the avian theme, the new word for par, is "duck." A bogey will now be known as a "turkey," followed by a "buzzard." Anything over double-bogey is a "grackle."  Finally, under the new rules there will be no more golf jokes, because non-golfers don't understand the references. They think a mixed foursome is a night with Tiger Woods at the Las Vegas House of Blues. Which reminds me of the mixed foursome just reaching the first green, and while one of the men stood over his ball, his partner noticed something out of place. He rushed to the side of his friend and whispered urgently, " The ladies are watching and you must have forgotten your underwear because your testicles are hanging out of your shorts." "I know," the golfer replied, "It keeps the gnats out of my eyes when I putt." See, a non-golfer would find no humor in a joke like that. And henceforth, anyone winning a green jacket must wear it everywhere he goes, just like orange and Bruce Pearl. If these changes don't enliven the game, we can always extend the adventure and build new public courses inside shopping malls. It's called a "win-win."