Sunday, July 26, 2009

FREAK(S) OF THE WEEK: The anti-Obama Birthers

This past week was so chock full o’ freaks that it was all I could do to keep up with all the freakiness. But by far, the biggest freaks were the so-called Birthers. These are the people on the far right fringe of the Republican Party who believe – despite all evidence to the contrary – that Barack Obama is not an American citizen.

This anti-Obama talk started during last year’s campaign, promoted by the same conservatives who cheered Sarah Palin when she said Obama was “paling around with terrorists.”

Despite making public the documents showing that Obama was indeed born in Hawaii – which, if you recall, is a state – the Birthers roared back with a vengeance at the same time Obama is promoting those “socialist” health care reforms. (Can you say “diversionary tactic”? I knew that you could.)

The rebirth of the Birthers occurred during a recent town hall meeting held by moderate Republican Congressman Mike Castle of Delaware. An angry citizen – reminiscent of the elderly woman who insisted to John McCain that Obama is an Arab – stood up waving around an American flag and her own birth certificate, demanding to see Obama’s.

“He is not an American citizen. He is a citizen of Kenya,” she shrieked, adding that her father fought in World War II (because, you know, that’s relevant). “I don’t want this flag to change. I want my country back,” she added while the audience cheered and whistled in approval. When Castle said that Obama is indeed an American citizen, he was booed. (See for yourself at

The movement gained more traction last week when California Congressman John Campbell went on MSNBC’s “Hardball” to promote his bill requiring presidential candidates to show copies of their birth certificates.

This interview didn’t go well for Campbell, with host Chris Matthews pressing him on whether or not he thought Obama was an American citizen. Campbell finally said, “As far as I know, yes.”

Still, the bill feeds the Birthers, whose ranks go as high as CNN’s Lou Dobbs and whose cause has been taken up by Dick Cheney daughter Liz.

What makes absolutely no sense is that the Birthers keep demanding to see Obama’s birth certificate when it’s already out there as part of the public record. So, the conversation goes something like this:

Crazy Birther: I want to see Obama’s birth certificate!

Sane person: OK, here it is.

Crazy Birther: But I want to see Obama’s birth certificate!

Sane person: I just showed it to you.

Crazy Birther: Yeah, but I want to see Obama’s birth certificate!

And on and on.

Funny how these crazy right-wingers never made an issue of any other politician’s status as an American citizen. So what’s going on?

Here it is, and it’s disgusting. There are Americans who just can’t accept, won’t accept, that a black man is president of the United States. Worse than that, he’s a black man with the “un-American” name Barack Hussein Obama. He was born in Hawaii (barely a state, although all of a sudden Alaska is the most American of states), and he lived part of his childhood in Indonesia. Given all that, Obama is seen by some as less than a real, red-blooded American.

During the campaign, Palin talked about how some places in the United States were more American than others. This Birthers movement is part of the fallout from that kind of divisive rhetoric.

It’s racist, it’s ugly, and it’s an evil eating away at the heart of the nation.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

FREAK(S) OF THE WEEK: Republican members of U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee

This past week, there was a whole Senate hearing-room full of freakiness as the Judiciary Committee grilled Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama’s nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court. As one pundit put it, these spoiled white guys were treating her as if she were the cleaning lady.

Firstly, when asking Sotomayor – who is currently a circuit court judge – about the so-called New Haven firefighters case, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama took issue with the nominee for not voting the same way as another circuit judge of Puerto Rican descent did.

Sessions said, “Had you voted with Judge [José] Cabranes, himself of Puerto Rican ancestry, had you voted with him, you could’ve changed that case.” What the heck does Cabranes’ ancestry – Puerto Rican or otherwise – have to do with his vote? No, Sen. Sessions, Puerto Ricans don’t all think alike.

Thankfully, not all Southern white guys think alike. Then again …

Not to be outdone, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma invoked a Latino stereotype during the hearing. In a bizarre exchange about Sotomayor hypothetically attacking Coburn, he said she would “have a lot of ’splainin’ to do!” That, of course, is a reference to the “I Love Lucy” character of Ricky Ricardo, a Cuban-American famously played by Desi Arnaz. Given the racial undercurrents of the hearing, why in the world would Coburn say this? Then again, in his mind, is there even a difference between Cubans and Puerto Ricans?

And then for some, Puerto Ricans are like any other “immigrants.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in stating that he would be voting against Sotomayor’s confirmation, compared her to his wife – former Bush Labor Secretary Elaine Chao – because she, too, is an immigrant. As a way of excusing his no vote, he said, “I myself am married to an immigrant who came to this country not speaking a word of English and ended up on the president's Cabinet.”

Um, Mr. McConnell, I hate to break this to you, but, um, Sotomayor is not an immigrant! She’s from Puerto Rico – which has been part of the United States since 1898! I know, is it’s only been 111 years, so it’s easy to forget.

The freakiness, sadly, was not limited to the U.S. Senate. Rush Limbaugh made a direct reference to Sotomayor as cleaning lady: "I think I'm going to send Sotomayor, and her club, a bunch of vacuum cleaners to help them clean up after their meetings." What a classy guy that Rush is.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Clinton “evolution” points to Obama hypocrisy

Former Bill Clinton – the man who gave us the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) back in 1996 – now supports marriage equality for same-sex couples.

This is a stunning reversal for Clinton. DOMA, after all, blocks the federal government from recognizing legally wed same-sex couples in states where it is permitted. The legislation also allows a state not to recognize a legal same-sex marriage performed in another state, a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution’s full-faith-and-credit clause.

Clinton made the declaration in response to a question at the Campus Progress National Conference in Washington, D.C. on July 8, and reported by The Nation magazine’s website.

“I think all these states that [legalize same-sex marriage], should do it,” Clinton said, according to The Nation. When asked about his personal feelings on the subject, he said, “I personally support people doing what they want to do. I think it’s wrong for someone to stop someone else from doing that.”

This comes after he told an audience at Toronto’s Convention Centre this past spring that his position on same-sex marriage was “evolving.”

Evolving, indeed.

Of course, it’s somewhat safe for Clinton to say all this now, nine years removed from office. Clinton won’t suffer any of the political consequences he faced back when he was in the Oval Office.

At the same time, however, same-sex marriage was merely an idea then – not the reality that began in 2004 in Massachusetts. So it was much easier in the ‘90s to oppose marriage equality – and the tide continues to turn.

In fact, a recent Gallup poll showed that a majority of Democrats favor equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Which brings us to Barack Obama.

The current president not only opposes same-sex marriage (opting for separate-but-not-really-equal civil unions), but his Justice Department filed a vile brief in support of DOMA despite once promising to repeal the legislation. (See FredBlog entry “Obama the marriage-equality hypocrite,” June 18, 2009.)

Other high profile Democrats have recently come down on the side of marriage equality, including Howard Dean, who signed the nation’s first civil unions law back in 2000 as governor of Vermont.

Interestingly, Vermont’s new law allowing same-sex couples to marry goes into effect on Sept. 1. Other states joining the marriage equality club this year are Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Iowa.

That’s a lot of evolving. President Obama, the ball is now in your court.

Monday, July 13, 2009

FREAK(S) OF THE WEEK: The Conservative Party of Canada

This week, there was so much freakiness attached to one issue that the FredBlog had no choice but to shine its freaklight on not just one person, but the entire Conservative Party of Canada for getting a little too excited about a photo of drag queens.

By now, you know the story – if not, see the posting from July 8 below. As you will see, there are just way too many freaks involved to point to just one. So this week’s freaks include:

·      Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He’s the one who disciplined Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy for granting less than $400,000 of government money to Pride Toronto. Ablonczy was doing nothing more than her job; in fact, she deserves credit for doing her job without regard to partisanship or ideology. Shame on Harper for kowtowing to Canada’s radical anti-gay right and punishing her.

·      Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost. He’s the one whose head spun around regarding Albonczy getting her picture taken with drag queens. As he told the far right-wing website, “The pro-life and the pro-family community should know and understand that the tourism funding money that went to the gay pride parade in Toronto was not government policy, was not supported by – I think it’s safe to say by a large majority – of the MPs.” Actually, Brad, it IS government policy to support tourist events like Pride, even if it makes you and your minions uncomfortable.

·      M.B. Callaghan of Toronto. There was much public reaction to the Pride funding fiasco, and most of the letters to the editor in the Toronto Star slammed the Conservatives for their crass political pandering. Still, too many people’s sentiments matched Callaghan’s, whose nonsensical letter stated, “It makes perfect sense to discipline Diane Ablonczy for authorizing federal money for a Gay Pride Parade. Surely, if gays had to pay for it themselves, they’d give it up. But if they parade it, it could look like fun to schoolchildren. Imagine – streets full of children behind a gay piper. How could Toronto go Conservative after that?”

·      Divers/Cité executive director Suzanne Girard. Amazingly, the head of the organization behind Montreal’s largest LGBT festival actually DEFENDED the Conservatives on this front. As the Canadian Press reported it, Girard simply “blamed right-wing fringe elements for unfairly trying to embarrass the Conservatives and cause problems for events like hers” ( That may be, but if Harper is willing to give in to these “fringe elements,” then Harper’s actions are indefensible.

·      Minister of Transport John Baird. Some Conservatives have had the fortitude and common sense to criticize Harper for punishing Ablonczy. But closet-case Baird is not one of them. Even former MP Monte Solberg – who is himself on the far right – wrote on his blog: “The truth is that, for better or worse, the Conservative government has provided grants for this kind of thing in the past. … [Ablonczy] deserves better than to be ratted out by a colleague on an issue that is a complete loser for the party.” As the Toronto Star editorialized, “Shame on other senior Conservatives for not adding their voices to [Solberg’s].” So, shame on John Baird, who has no problem being out in Toronto’s Gay Village – the site of the now-controversial Pride parade – but yet stays silent while on Parliament Hill.


What would the week be without some form of freakiness from our favorite soon-to-be-former-Alaska-governor, Sarah Palin.

To begin with, she made fashion news for her press conference in hip waders. (Did the Republican Party pay for THOSE too?)

She also continued to explain how quitting her job doesn’t make her a quitter. Because, y’know, in her world, “quitting” means “leading.”

But the best Palin freakiness was her attempt to be all, like, intellectual and such as. You see, she’s been tweeting a lot lately – guess she has more time to devote to Twitter since giving up her day job. One day last week, she gave specific advice to children:

·      “So AK Kids: take time to take your parents fishing: ‘You learn more about a person in an hour than in a year of conversation’ – Plato”

Wow, how impressive, right? She’s quoting Plato. One problem though – Plato never said this!

In fact, it’s credited to author Richard Lindgard in an etiquette guide from 1670! That’s a helluva lot later than Plato’s time. (Or maybe to Palin, everything before Ronald Reagan is just one big blur.)

Worse yet, the actual quote does not reference fishing, but GAMBLING! “If you would read a man’s disposition, see his game,” the quote reads. “You will then learn more of him in one hour, than in seven years conversation.”

So Sarah, better to quit the literary quoting and just stick to your day job. Oh wait, too late.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hard-right anti-gay Conservatives 1, Moderates 0

When it comes to Canadian Conservatives reaching out to the gay community, it’s one step forward then two steps back.

Even I was surprised this week after I read that the ruling Conservatives had given almost $400,000 to Toronto’s Pride Week as a way of bolstering Toronto and its Pride celebration as tourist destinations. I was even more surprised when I learned that Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy – a member of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Calgary cabal – traveled to Toronto to deliver the check personally.

Pride Toronto, the event’s governing organization, happily accepted the check – in part as a way of showing that Pride is not partisan.

So this was a good news story all around. Right?

Well, it WAS until the right-wing extremists in the Conservative Party went berserk about the government giving money to a gay event.

But what was Ablonczy’s worst offense, according to some? Horror of horrors, she had her picture taken with drag queens!

The result? Ablonczy has been disciplined. Prime Minister Harper stripped her of her power to announce tourism investments (even though she’s the minister of tourism), and she’s been muzzled from talking to the media.

Brad Trost, a Conservative MP from Saskatchewan, was reportedly the first to have his head spin over the site of Ablonczy and drag queens. He told the far right-wing website, “The pro-life and the pro-family community should know and understand that the tourism funding money that went to the gay pride parade in Toronto was not government policy, was not supported by – I think it’s safe to say by a large majority – of the MPs.”

In response to inquiries from the Toronto Star, a government spokesperson said, “I know that certainly there’s going to be folks who have their concerns and they’ve raised those concerns with us. … We’re listening.”

An unnamed source in the party told the Star: “The TV shots of [Ablonczy] with transvestites inflamed some people.”

Wait a minute. All this “inflamed some people”? And the Conservatives say, “We’re listening”? Real nice for a party that has been trying to hoodwink moderates into thinking it’s not the scary right-wing party it used to be when it was called the Reform Party.

Kudos to Ablonczy for putting partisanship and wedge politics aside in order to honor what she reportedly called Pride Toronto’s “polished and professional” application. Besides, government investment in Pride celebrations is nothing new – in Toronto, both the city and the province support the event, one of the city’s biggest tourism income generators.

In the end, what this Conservative kerfuffle means is simple. Like the Republican Party in the U.S., the Conservative Party of Canada – despite moderates in its ranks – is still beholden to right-wing extremists whose exclusionary ideas and wedge-issue politics are far outside the mainstream.

Monday, July 6, 2009

FREAK OF THE WEEK: Alaska Gov.-for-not-that-much-longer Sarah Palin

This week, the FredBlog shines its freaklight once again on Sarah Palin, this time for her rambling press conference during which she announced that she will not only refrain from running for re-election, but will leave office by the end of the month.

First, let’s look at the timing of the press conference – Friday afternoon on July 3 (late afternoon on the East Coast). Not only is Friday afternoon the usual dumping ground for releasing information you don’t want people paying attention to, but this was the day before the July 4 holiday – and a day that many people had off anyway.

So it would seem that Palin wanted to leave office without anyone noticing. What, did she think no one would wonder what happened once she left? Was she planning on just disappearing like South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford?

Speaking of Sanford, did Palin take press conference tips from him? Just like Sanford’s public freakiness when he admitted to his Argentinean love affair, Palin’s speech was – as described by CBS News – “rambling and sometimes confusing.” (Just like Palin herself.)

We the listening and viewing public had to hear about the history of Alaska, a long list of her administration’s “accomplishments,” her time since being tapped by John McCain as his running mate and a metaphor about fishing before we ever heard Palin say the words, “I will not seek re-election as governor.” (There was also a basketball analogy, but that came later, as did her final line quoting General MacArthur. She’s so folksy, ya know? You betcha!)

In deciding to step down on July 26, Palin said she did not want to be a “lame duck.” She said, “I thought about how much fun some governors have as lame ducks, ... travel around the state, to the Lower 48, overseas on international trade, as so many politicians do. And then I thought, that's what's wrong. Many just accept that lame duck status, hit the road, draw the paycheck, and milk it. I'm not putting Alaska through that. I promised efficiencies and effectiveness!”

I’ll leave it up to Alaskans to decide whether or not it’s a good thing Palin is leaving early, but this lame duck stuff makes no sense. Using her logic, George W. Bush should have left office as soon as he was elected to a second term because he was a lame duck. Ronald Reagan should have resigned as well. Actually, yes, we all would have been better off if they left office early, but does Palin really think Reagan and Dubya were inefficient and ineffective just because they served out their second terms as lame ducks?

Palin, per usual, makes so little sense that she might as well be speaking in tongues. For months, she has sounded like she is making it up as she goes along.

For those who are left scratching your head, Palin said, “All I can ask is that you trust me with this decision.” Oh, like you asked McCain to trust that you would be an intelligent running mate?


For those who are unaware of the Rev. Fred Phelps and his Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, just check out their most prominent website, These people are truly sick.

Phelps and his clan began making headlines in 1998, when they picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered. Their pickets spread from there, targeting almost anyone and anything that does not spread their message of hate – including such “pro-gay liberals” as Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham as well as the funerals of military personnel killed in Iraq. (Why the military? Because, as they would put it, God hates America, because America loves fags.)

The church’s latest freakiness is its plan to picket the public memorial service for Michael Jackson slated for Tuesday, July 7, at the Staples Center in L.A.

Here’s the announcement from the church’s website: “Michael 'Wacko Jacko' Jackson is in hell! [Westboro Baptist Church] will be there to remind you to stop worshiping the dead. We will be there to tell you to Thank God for the death of this filthy, adulterous, idolatrous, gender-confused, nationality-confused, unthankful brute beast. We will be there to remind you that God Killed Wacko Jacko. There is a God, and a Day of Judgment. For you to wallow and murmur against God for his righteous Judgments is sin and will cause YOU to join Michael in hell."

To call them freaks is too kind.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

FREAK OF THE MID-WEEK: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, again!

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is the freakgift that keeps on giving. So, for the second week in a row, the newly dubbed “Love Guv” is the FredBlog’s heretofore unheard of Freak of the Mid-Week.

By now, we all know how Sanford disappeared for almost a week and lied about where he was in order to visit his mistress in Argentina. And then came the rambling and bizarre mea culpa press conference during which he fessed up to his lyin’, cheatin’ ways.

The problem now is that Sanford just won’t shut up!

Earlier this week, over two days of “emotional interviews” with the Associated Press, Sanford couldn’t help himself but give details that should have been left in a folder marked TMI.

Here are some highlights:

Sanford calls Maria Belen Chapur – the other woman – his “soul mate.”

He says he “crossed the lines” with other women during his 20-year marriage, but it never went as far as it has with Chapur. As he put it, “There were a handful of instances wherein I crossed the lines I shouldn’t have crossed as a married man, but never crossed the ultimate line.” (That’s a euphemism in the making, as in, “So how was your date last night? Did you cross the ultimate line?”)

He tells the AP that his casual encounters with other women happened during trips outside the country to “blow off steam” with male friends. (So he’s been blowing off with MALE friends, too?!)

He went on: “What I would say is that I’ve never had sex with another woman. Have I done stupid? I have. You know you meet someone. You dance with them. You go to a place where you probably shouldn’t have gone.” (I love that he says, “Have I done stupid?” Yep, y’all gone and done stupid!)

Is he done? No way: “If you’re a married guy at the end of the day, you shouldn’t be dancing with somebody else. So anyway, without wandering into that field, we’ll just say that I let my guard down in all senses of the word without ever crossing the line that I crossed with this situation.” (Another euphemism: “So, you wander into that field lately?”)

He goes on to insist his relationship with Chapur is more than sex. “This was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story. A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day.” (Sounds like a Lifetime original movie.)

He says he is trying to fall back in love with his wife. “I owe it too much to my boys and to the last 20 years with Jenny to not try this larger walk of faith.”

Some are calling on Sanford to resign or be impeached. Personally, I don’t really care if he stays in office – although his disappearing act doesn’t instill confidence. But here’s a piece of political advice that this freaky governor should heed: Stop talking!