Our sacred flag

I know I promised that we’d talk about Reconstruction and the Rise of Capitalization and maybe we will sometime, just not today. Today we’re going to talk about how our flag went from a humble, hand-sewn banner to a mass-manufactured commodity made in Chinese factories by 10-year-olds in quantities large enough so that every Tea Party wacko can wave three of them when Sarah Palin shows up.

Don't Tread On Me Flag

At first, there was no one single flag.

Pine Tree Flag

Everyone had their own ideas for flags. One had a picture of a snake and the words, “Don’t Tread on Me.” Another had a pine tree with the words “An Appeal to Heaven.” Yet another had Alexander Hamilton’s ex-wife’s phone number with the words “For a Good Time Call.” But people started thinking there ought to be one single flag since, hey, E Pluribus Unum, right? But then they had to come up with something everyone liked, which turned out to be a problem. Democrats wanted a blue flag, Republicans wanted a red flag and Southerners wanted a black-and-white checkered flag.

South preferred this one

First they tried having a contest where schoolkids submitted their designs. That didn’t work so well because there wasn’t any drawing paper and so the kids started sending shovels on which they had drawn their designs in charcoal. No one (except Southerners) wanted a black and white flag so that idea was a complete fail. After a whole Revolutionary War spent scratching their heads wondering about a flag, they finally got their act together during the war of 1812. Here’s the really true story.

First, there was a woman named Betsy Ross. Betsy Ross was a seamstress in Baltimore. She also liked to tip a few but that’s not part of the story. I just bring it up because she got a little loose when she’d been drinking and sometimes woke up in the back of a haywagon with some guy she’d met the night before and that IS part of the story either. One time she woke up early in the morning, just the birds were singing and found she was next to a guy named Francis “Scott” Key. Scott was a part-time beer vendor at the Orioles games and was trying to get a break in the music industry. He had just hired an agent, Jose Ruiz, who was friends with a guy who owned the Ramada Inns in the Baltimore area. Jose was trying to book Scott Key into some of the lounges but it wasn’t working out.

Anyway, when Betsy Ross woke up, she couldn’t find her bra, which was a Wonder Woman bra. She’d gone shopping for a Wonder bra but was pretty drunk and ended up coming home with three Wonder Woman bras, all of which made her look like she’d been shot in the back with two rockets. She was really desperate to find her bra since if she went home without it her husband, Jim Ross Lightfoot, would say, “hey, WTF are you coming home without your bra. Something’s not right!”

Wonder Woman

Meanwhile, a British soldier was sneaking back to Fort McHenry with her bra. Turns out, Francis “Scott” Key hadn’t been Betsy’s only amusement in the back of the haywagon. Just as the sun was coming up, Scott Key, who had to work a doubleheader that day, sent a note to his agent asking him to go to Fort McHenry to retrieve Betsy’s bra.

The note read: “Jose, can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly I unhooked at twilight’s last gleaming? That bra’s stripes in the bar, we had a helluva fight.”

Luckily, Jose was able to climb the ramparts, avoiding the red glare and the bombs bursting in air and got Betsy’s bra back. When Scott Key took it to her house, she opened the door a crack and whispered that her husband was very suspicious and that she had to get back to the flag she was sewing.

“I want to see you again,” Scott Key said. “No chance,” Betsy said. My husband is a card-carrying member of the National Musket Association and he’ll blow your sorry ass away.”

When the dejected Scott Key got home, he pulled out his keys, his change and his wallet to put them on the dresser and he found the note Jose had returned to him when he brought back the bra.

“Eureka! I have it!” Scott Key cried. “I will write a national anthem! Since Betsy’s hubby is such a patriot, he won’t dare mess with the guy who wrote the National Anthem!” So he changed some of the words around and called it “The British Bra’d this on Themselves” But Jose talked him out of that and so he renamed it “The Star Spangled Banner” which is actually a reference to Betsy’s panties (see picture above right) but that’s a story for another day.

Next time: The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and the Raiders

George Washington, hero

Our country was founded in 1776 when the Founding Fathers (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Christopher Columbus, Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, Ronald Reagan and Charlton Heston and some others) got together in New York City to declare that we weren’t giving up our bare arms. They signed the Declaration of Independence and then broke the Liberty Bell by ringing it so hard. Heston would later found the city of Charlton, South Carolina.

Charlton Heston

The British didn’t like this and, being liberal communists, immediately tried to pass gun control laws, which started the Revolutionary War of 1812. For awhile it looked like we might lose but then they captured Benedict Arnold, Washington crossed the icy Potomac on a fairy and we won.

Liberty Bell

The same guys I mentioned above then wrote the Constitution which ended slavery and ensured the rights of people to go to church but the word “mosque” was never used. You can look that up.

The political parties were soon created. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and Abraham Lincoln founded the Republican Party. The Democrat party was founded by Karl Marx and some Quakers. The Republicans bought the entire rest of the country from the Indians for some beads and a case of Jim Beam and started building railroads. The Democrats immediately tried to surrender to the Spanish when there wasn’t even a war going on. Once they found that out, they all went to Massachusetts, where they invented welfare and started agitating for universal suffrage, which said that illegal immigrants from Mexico could send their kids to school for free and didn’t have to pay taxes.

Karl Marx, Founder of Democrat Party

The Civil War broke out in 1860 when the Democrats tried to raise taxes agains the Will of the People. It was a bloody strife and finally ended when the Confederates surrendered at Applesauce Courthouse in return for a promise that from then on all the military bases would be built in their states and that labor unions would be outlawed. All the South had to give up was a commitment to decent public education and public health, which was very attractive later when they had to compete against Indonesia for low-wage jobs.

Next time: Reconstruction and the Rise of Capitalization.

Dear Republicans who have made it a political dogma that the concept of climate change is complete bunk,

On behalf of the 6.8 billion people on this planet who aren’t quite as certain as you are that human behavior isn’t contributing to global climate change, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stop being so damn sure of yourselves.

While I am sorta-kinda ready to concede that prayer, animal sacrifice, tossing virgins into a pit and handling snakes might supplement reducing our CO2 emissions, I really don’t think it’s wise to take the reducing dependence on fossil fuels as an option. Even if you own Exxon stock.

Texas and Arizona are burning up. There have been historic floods on the nation’s two largest rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri, this year. This follows 2008, when 1000-year floods (which are being renamed 10-year floods) devastated Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

So far this year, Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Joplin, Missouri have been hit by gigantic tornadoes which killed 500 people. Even Connecticut, normally far from the center of tornado activity, got into the act. 2011 has been the deadliest year for tornadoes in the US since 1953 when weather radar and accurate forecasting of tornadoes was virtually non-existent.

I’m not a scientist but something seems weird here. People who ARE scientists agree. A total of 3,146 scientists were asked two questions: 1) Have mean global temperatures risen compared to pre-1800s levels, and 2) has human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures?

Nine out of 10 scientists said yes to the first and 82 percent said yes to the second. The consensus was even stronger among climatologists, who make their living studying weather. 97 percent of them said humans were playing a role in climate change. At the bottom end of the scale were geologists, of which only 47 percent said humans were a factor. NOTE: Geologist = oil exploration.

In the past 30 years, there have been 99 weather-related disasters that cost more than $1 billion each. This doesn’t include earthquakes.

So, Republican nay-sayers, you can argue with us all you want. But please, oh please pretty please with sugar on top don’t reject it out of hand because it doesn’t square with your ideology.

Anthony Weiner’s newest tack is time-tested. In fact, there are credible stories that Osama bin Laden pleaded with the SEALS to allow him to go into rehab. Their reply was “um, no. Bang. Bang. Bang.”

After several decades of planning, organizing and hard work, the Iowa Republican Party has successfully positioned our state as a political leper colony, filled with crackpots, wingnuts, snakehandlers and speakers in tongues. A recent New York Times article documents the political impact of our transformation into the Molokai of the Midwest.

While the Iowa GOP has been hard at work racing to the political right (see also: Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage recalled, most restrictive abortion laws this side of Saudi Arabia), I have also been hard at work. I’ve invented a machine I call the Political Communication Analyzer and Despinner (pat pending). Here’s how it works. I put an “official statement” from a candidate or campaign into one end. The statement is scrutinized by a sophisticated (and proprietary) algorithm and the machine returns what the statement really means. (Sorry, the machine is not as yet capable of deciphering corporate memos, which are vastly more convoluted and incoherent than political statements).

Let me give you some examples:

Mitt Romney announced that he was skipping the Iowa Straw Poll in August. His campaign said “We respect the straw poll process. In the last presidential campaign we were both strengthened as an organization and learned some important lessons by participating in them.”

When analyzed by the PCDA, the statement actually says “You’re completely nuts if you think we’re going back to Iowa in the heat of August to suck up to whackos who channel Glenn Beck. Four years ago, I ruined a $200 tie when barbecue sauce dripped off a turkey leg at the Iowa State Fair. And for what? So people with single-digit IQs can ask me the difference between Mormons and the Amish? They can kiss my ass.”

Another potential candidate, Jon Huntsman, announced he was opting out of the Iowa Caucuses. His statement: “I’m not competing in Iowa for a reason. I don’t believe in subsidies that prop up corn, soybeans and ethanol.”

While that sounds plausible to the naive and credulous, our machine’s translation rings truer:

“While I am a fiscal conservative, I really don’t think it’s a good idea to return our country to the Middle Ages. I am adamantly opposed to putting prisoners in stocks in the town square.  I also don’t believe dirty straw turns into rats, that the earth is flat, and that there is much value in animal sacrifice.”

Finally, the campaign of Newt Gingrich imploded this week, with just about all of his campaign staff who can walk and chew gum at the same time abandoning him. Former Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler put it this way: “When the campaign and the candidate disagree on the path, they’ve got to part ways.”

Our analysis indicates what Tyler was really saying was “Yippee! This is a two-fer win for me! I don’t have to have anything to do with Calista Gingrich anymore and I never have to smell the cheap perfume those nutjob Iowa fundamentalist Christian women wear. WTF? Don’t they ever take baths?”