Category Archives: Politics

Essays on politics and current events.

Dirty Deeds and the GOP

A brief history of the recent Pennsylvania race summarizes the moral bankruptcy of American conservatism

✎  Wayne K. Spear | March 15, 2018 • Politics


T MUST HAVE BEEN a let-down for the President when Rick Saccone lost his Pennsylvania seat to Democrat Conor Lamb, earlier this week and in a Republican district Trump himself had carried by 19 points. But there was consolation. Paul Ryan claimed that the President had in fact helped Saccone, in a race that he described as even more dire before Trump’s rally, and on Fox and Friends the hosts re-cast Conor Lamb as a Republican supporter of GOP policies. Fake news, they call it. Anyways, Steve Doocy added, Lamb’s PA18 district won’t even exist after November, so no biggie.


What Doocy didn’t mention was that PA18, a suburb of Pittsburgh, has been redrawn by order of the state’s supreme court. It’s the first time a state court has abolished district boundaries ruled to be the work of partisan gerrymandering. PA18 was engineered to make Democratic wins impossible, and for a while the effort paid off. So, yes, PA18 won’t exist after November, but the reasons ought to shame rather than encourage the GOP, assuming they are capable of shame.

The rise of Rick Saccone corresponds with the fall of David Levdansky. For twenty-five years Levdansky represented Pennsylvania’s 39th, but the Democrats went into the Obama 2010 midterm with a narrow, one-seat majority. The Republicans made no secret of their plan. They would pour campaign money into the state legislatures and, if victorious, re-draw the state districts in ways that favoured the GOP’s congressional ambitions. The work was handed to something called the Republican State Leadership Committee, under Chris Jankowski, and is the subject of a 2016 book, Ratf**cked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy. The Republicans code-named the operation REDMAP, the Redistricting Majority Project, and as I said made no secret of it.

The first step, ousting Levdansky, was simple enough. On Saturday October 9, with three weeks left in the race, the Republicans began a saturation campaign, filling the airwaves and the mailboxes each day with attacks on the Democratic candidate, claiming he had championed a $600M Arlen Specter Library. (Specter, as you know, had recently defected the Republicans to run as a Democrat. Thus by association Levdansky was labelled as not only a liberal, but a traitor.) The smear worked, the Republicans took over the legislature, and madly off in all directions went the gerrymander.

The redaction of PA18 was even messier than the GOP’s midterm assaults. The new congressional district excised Pittsburgh, and its urban Democratic voters, and produced a delirious map where one side of a street was in one district and the other side of a street in another. As I recall it, one of the candidates lived in a house that became the only house on the street in its district. The overall effect of this dog’s breakfast was to produce reliably Republican blocs in the southwestern suburbs of Pittsburgh, which was what the REDMAP operation had set out to do and what the state’s supreme court has now undone.

And let’s not forget what was special about this month’s special election. Rick Saccone was after the seat vacated by Republican Tim Murphy, a pro-life politician with a lover, an extramarital affair, and a “pregnancy scare” on his CV. Bad as that may be, it’s not what brought him down. Once the bad news started, it kept coming. Murphy’s staff provided the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with astonishing and lurid stories of an office culture spinning out-of-control, and soaked in abuse, hostility, and corruption, where there was 100% turnover and where it had become impossible to recruit and retain competent staff. (Sounds familiar, right?)

Down went Murphy, like the PA18 gerrymandering project, and up came Saccone. In a statement about the court-mandated map, he said he would run and win, regardless of the district, “because it’s not about the lines that are drawn, but about the values I represent.” Haha, and yes, the lofty values of the GOP—we’re all experts on that now, living as we are in a moral universe where Republicans hold Roy Moore godly and where President Donald Trump champions an abstinence-only curriculum. Saccone likes to brag that he was Trump before Trump, but the voters have now weighed in on the GOP’s values and there’s nothing to be proud of. Let the Trumpists fall, let the conversation turn to life after this administration, and may the work soon begin of undoing the GOP’s dirty deeds.

Dishonor thy Mother

The Billy Graham Library tells the story of a vile and sickening son

✎  Wayne K. Spear | March 5, 2018 • Politics


ILLIAM MARTIN, author of A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story, says Franklin Graham’s relationship with President Trump “will come to embarrass him.” But for that to occur, Mr. Graham will need the capacity to feel embarrassment, for which there’s no evidence.

Franklin Graham

During the funeral of his father, Franklin reminded his audience how humble the man had been, and that he would have disapproved of the attentions given him on the grounds of a 40,000-square-foot museum dedicated exclusively to his life and work, and no one laughed. Nor did the obituaries delve, as far as I’m able to tell, into the origins of this tourist trap, ludicrously called the Billy Graham Library and set up by Franklin to further milk the lucrative family brand by exploiting the memory of his dead parents.

The backstory of the Billy Graham Library tells you everything you need to know about the vile money-and-power-grubbing charlatan who now controls the $300M “non-profit” and tax-exempt Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, or BGEA, and its annual revenues in excess of $100M. Franklin Graham had the idea for the compound in 2001, and it soon became the occasion of a bitter family struggle in which he prevailed. A family struggle, because Franklin’s plan required the burial of his parents on the museum’s Charlotte, North Carolina, property, in violation of the wishes of his mother, Ruth Graham.

Ruth and her son often engaged in power struggles, and as a child, as now, Franklin was stubborn and aggressive. This was no different. Once Billy had transferred control of the BGEA to his son, Franklin took his proposal to the city and leveraged an eventual family shrine for a sweetheart deal on 60 acres of land adjacent the Billy Graham Parkway, where the business headquarters and Billy Graham Library now reside. BGEA then received funding for the Billy Graham Library, including $1,000,000 from The Charlos Foundation. (Franklin has arranged his affairs in a way that allows him to pay for nothing and to profit from everything.)

The Graham siblings denounced Franklin’s proposal, calling it tasteless and tacky and little more than a tourist trap and money-making operation, beneath the dignity of their father’s reputation. One of the daughters referred to the Billy Graham Library as The Cracker Barrel, and Ruth denounced it is as a circus. The conflict-averse Billy audited these views but refused to participate, saying only that wherever Ruth ended up, he would be buried by her side. And so it was. Billy Graham announced the final resting place of his wife on June 13, 2007, at the point when she no longer had the physical capacity to speak on her own behalf, or to object. “I know this goes against my mother’s wishes,” Ned Graham was quoted as saying.

All of this, and much more, is detailed in a December 2006 Washington Post article, “A Family at Cross-Purposes,” by Laura Sessions Stepp. From Stepp we learn that, while lucid, Ruth Graham was clear that under no circumstances was she to be buried in Charlotte. Her wish was to be interred where she had lived for many years, in the mountains, but Franklin had his scheme and would not be thwarted. Because he controlled the family’s resources, and because his personality tends toward dominance (like the grifter President he so often defends) Franklin bludgeoned his siblings, and likely also his father, into submission. Ruth Graham was buried on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library, aka the circus, on June 17, 2007, nine days after its opening.

And a circus of a kind it is, a heavily subsidized, “40,000-square-foot experience” and Disney-styled cash cow—in this case, a singing animatronic cash cow who welcomes over 200,000 visitors each year along their “Journey of Faith” through the museum and toward Ruth’s Attic Bookstore and the Graham Brothers Dairy Bar. (One of the Billy Graham Library’s designers, ITEC Entertainment Co., is unsurprisingly a theme park contractor who has done work for Disney.) The website helpfully informs prospective visitors that cash, personal checks, American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted. Admission is free, but donation boxes are located in the lobby for those who want to subsidize Mr. Graham’s paranoia, hate, cultural warfare, and generous annual compensation, which ranges from $880,000 to over $1,000,000.

Anal Tax and Sex Carbons

The Ontario Conservatives Know How to Entertain

✎  Wayne K. Spear | February 27, 2018 • Politics


WATCHED THE ONTARIO PC leadership debate last week, and while I found it a touch dull, there’s no denying that the Conservatives understand, and can deliver, entertainment. The entertainment value of the race to replace former leader Patrick Brown, for example, benefitted early on, with the entry of the up-and-coming political neophyte, Patrick Brown. He’s a fresh face, and he’s never governed, but, according to various rumours, he once had a leadership role somewhere but stepped down, or maybe didn’t. It’s not clear. No doubt we’ll learn more about this mysterious Mr. Brown from the papers, should he decide to re-enter, or re-re-enter the race. Or wherever we’re at now.

Hot Anal Sexleft to right: Anal Sex Woman, Too Sensible for Ontario, That Mid-Level Drug Dealer, Has A Famous Dad

The Ontario PCs are the most diverse of the provincial political parties. There’s something for everyone at the Conservative salad bar: the faux-populist entrepreneur, with mid-level experience in the retail pharmaceutical trade; the fresh and photogenic outsider with the famous last name; the family-values Puritan; the polished and informed candidate far too sensible to ever be elected by Ontario voters. And possibly Patrick Brown, who, if he re-re-enters the race, will distance himself from the theatrics of the previous Ontario PC leader, as well as of the previous leadership candidate, Patrick Brown, and Patrick Brown.

CommosJust say OhNos! to Commo-fascisms

Far and away, the top issues in the 2018 Ontario election are anal carbon and sex tax. If you watched the first debate, you heard the words carbon and anal quite a lot, just as you have over the past eight years, in your local church and grocery store. Every man, woman, and child is talking about these things. That’s because there’s hardly a citizen who is not daily imperiled by anal carbon and the sex tax. The build-up of carbon in the anal cavity is not only messy, but painful and dangerous, and it makes sitting for long periods, or passing waste, excrutiating. Anal carbon is said by some to effect the climate negatively, especially bovine anal carbon, but although anal carbon is taught in the schools, the evidence of its effects on climate is inconclusive. That, and the fact it encourages our children to hoard carbons, is why all the Ontario PC candidates repudiate the teaching of anal carbon in the classrooms, describing it as “making parents uncomfortable.” Whether it’s man-made anal carbon or mixed couples.

As for the sex tax, sex used to be the only fun thing you could do in Ontario, other than maybe stealing shopping carts, without spending money. And now the government is making sex expensive by taxing it. (The Ontario puritans are ruining everything. At this rate there will soon be liquor laws!) The HST, having sex tax, is highly unpopular in Ontario, as was the Great Sex Tax, or GST, before it. That’s why, wherever you go in Ontario, people are forever talking about sex taxes and anal carbon, unless they are talking about anal tax and sex carbon, which are also very common topics of discussion in the coffee shops of this province. You see, the principal concerns of all the people that live in this part of the world center on a single tetravalent chemical element from the periodic table, basically a lump of coal, and on the hole in their ass. That may be the best way to understand this leadership race, and why it may end with Ontario getting a lump of coal and an asshole.