"Sell crazy someplace else, we're all stocked up here."
Given the level of wackiness that seems to have afflicted this third planet from the sun, Jack Nicholson's immortal line in the movie As Good as It Gets (written by Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks), should become our worldwide slogan. Sure, it's always a cuckoo fest here on Earth, but this week it seems the out-of-control dial has been cranked up way beyond 11.
There's Muammar "Gunshots? What Gunshots?" Gadaffi, who blames rebellion in Libya on a bunch of crazy, mixed up, drug-addled kids, al Qaeda and for all we know, fluoridated water. Then there's Charlie Sheen who, in the vocabulary of recovery, epitomizes the so-called "arrogant doormat," bragging of his Adonis DNA (oh, brother) while whining about the ill treatment that has given him an estimated net worth of $85 million -- a hubris reminiscent of the Emperor Caligula, if Caligula had a Golden Globe and unlimited access to cocaine.
Presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee earned a place on the round the bend roster this week with his claim that President Obama had grown up in Kenya and his subsequent "what I meant to say" contortions, although he may have been outdone by cockamamie radio host Bryan Fischer, who told Huckabee, "What got lost in all the shuffle was the legitimate point that you were making is that we may have a president who has some fundamentally anti-American ideas, that may be rooted in a childhood where he had a father who was virulently anti-colonial, hated the British."
Wait -- anti-colonial, hated the British -- does that mean Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Franklin were un-American? I'm so confused.
Not as confused as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his Republican state legislators, who continue to stomp their feet and threaten to hold their collective breaths until they turn a very un-GOP-like blue if Democratic senators don't return to the capitol and create a quorum. That quorum would allow Republicans to destroy the collective bargaining rights of the state's public employee union members, despite major opposition from Wisconsin voters.
Violating the first rule of what to do when you find yourself in a hole -- stop digging -- Walker and his legislative pals have levied fines against the Democrats, attempted to withhold their wages and on Thursday placed them in contempt and ordered the Senate sergeant-at-arms to "take any and all necessary steps, with or without force" to haul the runaways in. They even tried to make illegal the kind of prank call that fooled Governor Walker into thinking he was discussing strategy with right-wing bankroller David Koch, and attempted to limit public access to the capitol building, despite a court order to the contrary.
In protest, like Peanuts' Lucy van Pelt and her psychiatrist stand, Democratic members of the state's lower chamber moved their desks outside to the capitol grounds. It's cold, but they're used to it -- as the old joke goes, when it's fifty below zero, Hell freezes over and Wisconsin schools start two hours late.
So who's the worst of all these foolish masters of denial? In some respects it's pretty much a dead heat on a merry-go-round, although Gadaffi has the definite lead when it comes to lunacy with hideous consequences. But challenging them all for the slippery grasp of reality prize is that maelstrom of madness, the US House of Representatives.
Two weeks ago, the House voted 244-179 to end American funding for the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), just their latest refusal to accept the legitimacy of manmade global warming. As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson recently said, the great thing about science is that it's true whether you believe it or not, but this crowd clings to the mantra that if they keep insisting that climate change isn't happening the industrial pollution of the planet's air supply can go on unabated.
They once again invoked the specter of "Climategate," the continuing canard that the contents of stolen e-mails from a British university invalidate a 2007 IPCC report reconfirming that human activity has "very likely" caused "most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century." But there now have been five investigations of this alleged scandal, including a February 18 report from the inspector general of the Department of Commerce, and none of them has found any evidence of "inappropriately manipulated data."
Not that it matters. Providing fact-based reporting and analyses for this House majority is tilting at hot air-driven windmills. Just look at their budget. The Financial Times quotes a report from a Goldman Sachs forecaster: "The Republican plan to slash government spending by $61bn in 2011 could reduce US economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points in the second and third quarters of the year." Dana Milbank of The Washington Post interviewed an expert at the progressive Center for American Progress who calculated that the cuts "would lead to the loss of 650,000 government jobs, and the indirect loss of 325,000 more jobs as fewer government workers travel and buy things. That's nearly 1 million jobs -- possibly enough to tip the economy back into recession."
The Post also quoted a similar report from Moody's Analytics that "the GOP package would reduce economic growth by 0.5 percentage points this year, and by 0.2 percentage points in 2012, resulting in 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of next year." According to Moody's Mark Zandi, "Significant government spending restraint is vital, but given the still halting economic recovery, it would be counterproductive for that restraint to begin until the economy is creating enough jobs to bring down the still very high unemployment rate." And while Fed chair Ben Bernanke said he thought the Moody and Goldman estimates were high, even he admitted the cuts would lead to a "not trivial" loss of jobs.
With the Tea Party irregulars snapping at his rear end, Speaker John Boehner responded to reports with a dry-eyed, "So be it." That's downright wacky for sure, and ignores the truth. But apparently, to paraphrase good old Jack Nicholson (as written by Aaron Sorkin), Boehner and his gang can't handle the truth.
Michael Winship, former senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS, is president of the Writers Guild of America, East.
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