"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
1. Christian historian: Abortions caused Typhoon Haiyan.
This might come as news to the grieving survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines: the cause of the powerful storm was abortion. Not necessarily their abortions, but just the fact that anyone has abortions, especially legally, even though abortion is illegal in the Philippines. God is very, very pissed about that, and that’s why he sent a typhoon that killed all those Filipinos on its way to Vietnam. He’s vindictive like that. That is why he is causing all these very destructive and scary storms.
What is not causing any of this climatological havoc is global warming—not that it even exists. Burning fossil fuels is something God actually wants us to do more of. So goes the theory of Christian denialist, oops, we mean “historian” David Barton. The blanket explanation for all this “climate stuff that we can’t explain,” he said this week in a conversation with televangelist Kenneth Copeland, as well as murder and pedophilia, is legalized abortion. America voted for politicians who support abortion rights, and in doing so “opened the door to the curse.”
Here is the historical background. In the good old days, when America was first starting out, Barton explained that if there was really bad weather, leaders would “call for a national day of repentance, humiliation, fasting and prayer … and today we’re saying, ‘Oh no, it’s global warming.’”
That’s how we lost God’s protection. We chose to lose it. What did we expect?
2. Radio host Damon Bruce: Sports are set to the dial of men.
Sports are for men, and Richie Incognito is a man, acting manly in a man’s world. And if you don’t like it, ladies, you can lump it. That is the short version of a nine-minute tirade against women in sports this week by KNBR sports radio host Damon Bruce.
Bruce is mad at women because women are to blame for the suspension of Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito after his alleged (and apparently legendary) harassment, bullying and threats against teammate Jonathan Martin drove Martin from the team.
Here’s how the tirade starts:
“A lot of sports has lost its way and I’m gonna tell you, part of the reason is because we’ve got women giving us directions. For some of you, this is going to come across as very misogynistic. I don’t care, because I’m very right. I’m willing to share my sandbox, as long as you remember you’re in my box. I didn’t slip into your box….”
Allowing women to “slip into the box” of professional sports has pretty much ruined sports, Bruce thinks. It has feminized men and made it hard for men to bond the way they like to bond—by being assholes. That’s what Jonathan Martin didn’t understand. Incognito was trying to bond with him when he called him racial slurs and threatened to rape his sister.
Here’s Bruce’s sage advice to women sports journalists who can’t hack it: “If sports get too gruesome for you, go write a restaurant column. Go write a housekeeping column.”
Sweet of him to be concerned.
3. Rand Paul overtakes Ted Cruz as chief Republican wacko bird.
This is a tightly contested race—neck and neck. Lately, Texas Tea Partier Cruz has been relatively subdued since his widely ridiculed Obamacare filibuster which led to the widely reviled government shutdown.
So, Kentucky libertarian Paul was good enough to step into the breach to fulfill the role of what Senator John McCain coined as “chief of the wacko birds.” Paul has distinguished himself in the last week or so with his passionate defense, or is it ignorance, of plagiarism, challenging Rachel Maddow to a duel for repeatedly pointing out that he lifts passages from Wikipedia wholesale for speeches, articles, books, whatever. She’s impugning his honor by doing so, “spreading hate” on him. Besides libertarians don’t attribute stuff; that’s for big government suckers.
A plagiarism scandal, or multiple plagiarism scandals, need not be devastating. Hey, mistakes happen. Admit them and move on, we say. But no, Paul started talking “duel” during an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”
“If, you know, if dueling were legal in Kentucky, if they keep it up, you know, it would be a duel challenge. But I can’t do that, because I can’t hold office in Kentucky then.”
Note to Paul: Toto, you’re not in 19th-century Kentucky anymore.
4. Antonin Scalia brings up the devil in case about prayer.
It’s almost as if there’s a little red guy with horns and a tail sitting on the shoulder of the Supreme Court’s most verbose right-winger, making him say really off-the-wall things. Justice Antonin Scalia just keeps seeing the devil and his worshippers everywhere, bringing them up during oral arguments in a case about the constitutionality of legislative prayer. This, just weeks after a somewhat embarrassing interview in New York magazine in which he gleefully affirmed his belief in the Antichrist. And what’s wrong with that?
During this week’s case, fellow conservative jurist Samuel Alito was asking questions about whether any kind of prayer would be permissible before a legislative session, one that would not offend Christians, Jews, Muslims, or Hindus.
“What about devil worshippers?” Scalia interjected. Laughter ensued. He’s such a card.
His larger point was that not letting people pray before legislative meetings deprives them of their religious freedom, and that it is impossible to design a prayer that satisfies all faiths—not to mention lack thereof.
“What is the equivalent of prayer for someone who is not religious?” Scalia asked. “There are many people who do not believe in God. … If you had an atheist [town] board, you would not have any prayer. I guarantee you.”
After all, who do you think makes people atheists? Guy with the horns, we’re talking to you.
5. Louie Gohmert: Shutdown was necessary to save people from Obamacare.
Two quick refreshers: 1) Obamacare is the “worst law known to man,” worse than slavery, Nuremberg laws, Indian removal act—you get the idea; and 2) Tea Partiers received a drubbing in this week’s election, but seem not to realize it.
Texas Tea Partier Louie Gohmert was out stumping this week, bizarrely bragging that the devastating shutdown was necessary because people would “suffer and potentially die” because of the Affordable Care Act. Yup, nothing kills people faster than health insurance. It is deadly stuff.
He made the statement at a nursing home in East Texas, where he hoped to scare the bejeezus out of seniors so they won’t sign up for the dreaded healthcare coverage. “Anybody that thinks the Affordable Care Act helps seniors doesn’t really understand what’s unaffordable to seniors,” Gohmert helpfully and misleadingly explained. “It makes most of the Medicare Advantage plans go up, but you’ve got to remember, Obamacare actually cut $716 billion from Medicare and seniors rely on Medicare.”
That, of course, is either a lie or make-believe, or both, but since when has that stopped the opponents of Obamacare?
6. Rep. Steve King knows personally—don’t ask him how—that Saddam Hussein purchased uranium from Niger.
Who can forget the fiction that fueled the invasion of Iraq in 2003? Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, was building the bomb, and was ready to use all of it against us or Israel. He got his uranium from Niger, high-level intelligence said. President George Bush even said so in a speech.
Cut to a couple months after “Shock and Awe” and not even Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney or President Bush was standing by that statement. They were misled by some bum intelligence. Sorry. Our bad.
But crazy Iowa Rep. Steve King still believes it because, as he said on Jan Mickelson’s radio show this week: “I have had hands-on evidence that what George Bush said in that State of the Union address was the truth.”
What Bush said was: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
When the claim unraveled, the Bush administration had to eat crow and admit the so-called intelligence was “bogus,” documents “forged.” Spokesman Ari Fleischer admitted the statement should never have found its way into the president’s speech. But nobody took the war back.
But King has “hands-on” knowledge. He just does.
7. Illinois Rep.: Marriage equality has nothing to do with rights; it’s about the Bible.
As the Illinois legislature began to debate whether to join the growing number of enlightened states that have legalized same-sex marriage, State Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, pointed out that everyone has it bass-ackwards. Our nation was built on “the scriptures, then came the Constitution. Is that not right?”
It was, of course, a rhetorical question. “I think it is,” Kay continued. A brief course in American history could clear this up for the confused legislator, but never mind.
Kay is at a loss to understand why everyone keeps talking about human rights, and civil rights, and equal rights all the time when they talk about marriage equality. What do human rights have to do with a nation built on scripture? Who you gonna believe, that Constitution with its Bill of Rights written by men, or the word of God?
8. Larry Pratt: Trayvon Martin’s broken family is what killed him.
It’s never too late to pile more pain onto the grieving parents and loved ones of slain teenager Trayvon Martin. His killer is free, Trayvon has been blamed for his own death, and now, taking it one step further, Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America has suggested that Martin’s dysfunctional family is responsible for the boy’s death.
That’s what he said in an interview with NewsMax’s Steve Malzberg this week: Trayvon Martin was killed because he had a “broken family.”
Who else can you blame? Triggerman, neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman was just lawfully “standing his ground” when he shot unarmed Martin. “Stand Your Ground” laws can’t be to blame because, as Sen. Ted Cruz explained to Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton in a Senate hearing on the controversial law, she’s just “mourning the loss of her son.” Stand-your-ground laws in fact “protect those in African-American communities,” he said.
Facts be damned, gun nuts and Tea Partiers agree. According to Right-Wing Watch, a recent “Tampa Bay Times analysis of stand-your-ground cases in Florida found substantial racial disparities in the application of the law, including that ‘people who killed a black person walked free 73 percent of the time, while those who killed a white person went free 59 percent of the time. A national study found a similar disparity.”
But, it’s Trayvon Martin’s family’s fault he’s dead. Probably his mother’s.
9. White, anti-LGBT Texan wins office by pretending to be black.
Dave Wilson, a Houston electrician, has become pretty adept at creating literature for the causes he believes in. While not rewiring people’s homes, he long pursued his sideline of mailing homophobic fliers to thousands of Houston voters attacking the city’s lesbian mayor Annise Parker. His argument is pretty simple. Open homosexuality is bad. It leads to extinction. (Closeted homosexuality, not so much.)
Recently, Wilson expanded his literary efforts into fiction, when he got himself elected to the Houston Community College Board of Trustees by out-and-out pretending to be someone else. He pretended to be a black man, defeating longtime incumbent Bruce Austin, who actually is black, in an overwhelmingly African-American district.
According to Right-Wing Watch, “Wilson’s campaign fliers were filled with black faces that he admits to simply pulling off of websites, along with captions such as ‘Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.’ Another flier announces that he was ‘Endorsed by Ron Wilson,’ which is the name of an African-American former state representative. Only by reading the fine print will voters discover that the ‘Ron Wilson’ who actually endorsed Dave is his cousin. The cousin lives in Iowa.”
Wilson is fine with this whole deception thing. After all, lying is what politicians do, he points out.
10. Nutjob former classmate of Obama reminisces about his cocaine-snorting, gay-hustling high school days.
Scott Lively’s “Defend The Family” website got a real scoop this week with an interview that nutjob preacher James David Manning conducted with Mia Marie Pope, who says—and why would we not believe her?—that she knew President Obama back in high school in Hawaii in the 1970s, when he was a foreigner (this is a birther website, after all) and a gay druggie.
“He very much was within sort of the gay community,” Pope claimed. “And we knew Barry as just common knowledge that girls were never anything that he ever was interested in … He would get with these older white gay men, and this is how we just pretty much had the impression that that’s how he was procuring his cocaine. In other words, he was having sex with these older white guys and that’s how he was getting this cocaine to be able to freebase.”
That clears a lot up.
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)
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