Monday August 26, 2013

Alden Graves

There has been a lot of outrage amongst superhero fans over the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman. I’m still trying to figure out what the big deal about "Argo" was and I certainly don’t think that the presence of a comic book actor in a comic book part seems too far-fetched.

Unfortunately, people in the United States have our own coterie of real-life comic book characters to contend with. And they only think that they are superheroes.

At a GOP club meeting in Birmingham, Mich., freshman congressman Kerry Bentivolio paraphrased Martin Luther King’s iconic "I have a dream" speech to voice his own dream. The staunch advocate for removing cameras at traffic intersections and other Orwellian affronts to freedom told a no-doubt rapt audience that it was his dream to write and submit a bill to Congress to impeach President Obama.

Mr. Bentivolio wasn’t too sure on what grounds he would sow the seeds for his dream, but he had a bunch of lawyers trying to come up with something in the way of fertilizer, a commodity that they historically have no difficulty in spreading around.

If the congressman is unequivocal about his quest, he is less so about his own identity. As a matter of fact, Mr. Bentivolio frequently refers to himself with the plural pronoun "we" because of his years playing Santa Claus for a business he started 20 years ago.


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He doesn’t care if people think he’s crazy. (I’m not making this up. I don’t have the kind of soaring imagination to be able to make this up. Stephen King doesn’t have that kind of imagination!)

The Tea Party’s dream of impeaching the president is rooted in the same delusionary foundation that nurtured Norma Desmond’s fantasy of a movie comeback in "Sunset Boulevard," but at least poor Norma had something more than six reindeer (times are tough) to offer as a credential.

The current agenda of the Republican lunatic fringe is never going to prevail in this nation. The best they can hope to accomplish is to delay, obfuscate, and preen. Preening isn’t easy when you are dodging reindeer droppings and wallowing around in mud holes with people like Limbaugh, Beck, and Coulter (all of whom, not incidentally, have gotten richer than Midas by exploiting their peculiar fascination to their terminally gullible audiences).

A $400 million dollar radio contract to sneer at and undermine anything that remotely resembles social progress is only a shining example of good old American entrepreneurial spirit, at least according to the Republican handbook. It takes a real deep-thinker to pronounce Oprah Winfrey "fat" on a nationally broadcast radio program, as well as an obvious aversion to mirrors.

But, there are only so many people who will buy into any scam simply because someone tells them that freedom is at stake, so the state of North Carolina has performed a kind of public service by illustrating what lies in store for us should we ever let our guard down enough to become a Tea Party nation.

North Carolina was, up until recently, one of the few states in the south that wasn’t mired in fond memories of cotton fields and cavaliers. That changed with the influence of a multimillionaire businessman named Art Pope, who managed to secure a position as Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget director after showering state Republicans with money during the 2012 election. McCrory’s win assured Pope’s assumption and it coincided with the Republicans gaining control of the statehouse.

Thus another iconic American saying came to pass, "The rich get richer and the poor get shafted."

Social programs in North Carolina, of course, immediately assumed the same role that Gen. Custer’s troops did at the Little Big Horn. Spending for education and benefits for the poor have been slashed. Among the casualties -- so that the rich in the state can enjoy tax cuts -- are teacher salaries, 10,000 prekindergarten slots, and services offered to disabled children. North Carolina spends less on education than it did in 2007 and it now ranks 46th in the nation in per capita education dollars. That isn’t much of an incentive to move there despite all the rosy propaganda emanating from the governor’s office.

Gun rights have been expanded to help combat the problem of bored teenagers. The scourge of easy access to voting is now being addressed because of the inherent threat that it poses to future GOP viability. Gov McCrory couldn’t offer any examples of flagrant voter abuse, but he’s sure it’s lurking there somewhere like an alligator submerged in a placid pond.

North Carolina has the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country. The problem, as any GOP lawmaker worth his salt knows, is the wild and wacky lifestyle that people can maintain on $350 a week, so the maximum number of weeks that his lavish living can be enjoyed has been cut back to 12. North Carolina is the only state in the union to loose subsidies for unemployment benefits because it refused to repay the federal government the $2.5 billion it owed for participation in the program. The Chamber of Commerce successfully argued with the legislature that it makes more sense to let people starve than to force businesses to pay higher taxes to repay the debt.

Ronnie Bryant, an economic developer in Charlotte, posed a valid question to the McCrory wrecking crew in a letter to the local newspaper: "What the hell are you guys doing?"

Don’t you worry, Mr. Bryant, the governor and his vested interest cronies know exactly what they are doing.

Alden Graves is a regular Banner columnist.