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  • December 27th, 2019


By Joel M. Vance


Political idiocy prevails.  I can’t say that it is comforting to know the 2019 exits with a flurry of political incidents that border on outright lunacy, but I also can’t say that it is surprising.


In my home state, Missouri, a statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, has been hoisted back atop the Capitol after a year’s absence to be refurbished, buffed to an untarnished sheen not seen since she was installed atop the seat of state government, unsullied by the droppings of high flying birds (possibly commenting on the state of affairs in the legislative halls beneath her lofty perch where she symbolizes the importance of agriculture in the Show Me State) , after having been dulled by the inevitable tarnish of time.


Almost predictably, a state representative, almost predictably also a right wing Republican, objected to the presence of Ceres ’way up there, 230 feet above ground level, overlooking Jefferson City because she is a graven image. The outraged politician hails from the portion of the state often referred to as the Bible Belt.


State representative Mike Moon, an Ash Grove Republican, thundered “God commanded the Israelites to have no gods other than him.” He appealed plaintively to fellow Republican, Gov. Mike Parson, apparently channeling God’s word directly to the head of state, “do not make metal gods for yourselves. I am the Lord your God, Gov. Parson.  You and I have placed our trust in the same Lord, the God of the Bible. As such I appeal to your good judgment, as a follower of Jesus Christ, to direct the Capitol Commission to not return the false God Ceres, the Roman goddess, to the top of the Capitol dome.”


Although representative Moon seems to be in the camp of those afflicted by strange derangement during the full moon phase (i.e., werewolves and vampires) he may have a point—perhaps God, the real one, is less than enchanted by Ceres’ lofty position— she has been struck, mostly in the head, about 300 times by lightning since 1924.


Ceres stands 10’4” tall, weighs 1407 pounds and is constructed of bronze. She was grounded for a year, to spend time at the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio, Inc., located in Forest Park, Illinois, a company which specializes in cosmetic treatment for items of historic significance. Dana Miller, chief clerk of the Missouri House of Representatives and a member of the Missouri State Capitol Commission, said “they call it laser ablation., conservation, not repair. So we’re conserving her.”


Apparently, Ceres was suffering from what you might call statuary zits. Although she is a bronze, she has a high copper content and when copper is exposed to weather, it can cause green freckles that tainted Ceres’ hair, body, outfit and base. Ms. Miller commented, “this coating that they’re putting on her will keep her looking good for a while. They didn’t even have to put a patina on her because she was so pretty,” she added.


So much for Missouri’s political hullabaloo over a statue. We’ll step over neighboring state Kentucky which already has its hands full with a political moon bat, not so much an obsession with graven images— Moscow Mitch McConnell, the Chinless Wonder who seems to feel that Donald Trump’s impeachment trial already is settled, perhaps in his hopeful imagination (and he hasn’t even been struck in the head by lightning once not to mention 300 times, even if he often acts like it). Throwing normal rules for jurors in a trial in the dumpster, McConnell has declared publicly that he has no impartiality and Trump is as pure as the driven slush.


However it is mandatory since 1849 according to the Kentucky State Constitution that every legislator, public officer, and lawyer must swear under oath that he or she has not fought a duel with deadly weapons. Presumably, Moscow Mitch has sworn that he has not engaged in duels—unless, of course, you count his mouth as a deadly weapon. Just you wait until Kentucky displays a statue or bust of a famous figure. I propose Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass, but Moscow Mitch might be more inclined toward Vladimir Putin.


Let’s go another state south to Tennessee where a bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest disgraces the state Capitol. Where General Robert E Lee has street creds as a historic warrior, revered to some extent by both sides for his role in what some unregenerate Southerners persist to this day in calling “The Late Unpleasantness.” By contrast Forrest was a sociopathic killer who, if he were living today, still would be a racist Ku Klux Klan stalwart and slavery defender. Forrest was a founder of the Klan. One might, if one were inclined toward the pun as a form of high humor, to call Nathan Bedford Forrest a “sheet head.”


The legislative proposal is to move the Forrest bust into the state Museum and (I swear, I am not making this up) replace it with a bust (and I don’t want to hear any giggles here) of Dolly Parton. Ms. Parton almost certainly is Tennessee’s most prominent citizen today and for the benefit of those who do not remember legendary episodes of the Johnny  Carson’s show, Ms. Parton once replied to an unspoken question by Carson by saying, “they are real!”


Lest you think that crazy state laws are the exclusive property of red states, especially those where people routinely eat grits as if they/it were actual food, Wisconsin, the home state of my mother, recently had a law proposed by State Sen. Glenn Grothman which would have required the state’s child abuse agency  to “emphasize” single parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.” A cosponsor, Don Pridemore, believes that spouses in abusive relationships should try to stay in them rather than divorce. Hang in there mama and ignore those bruises and broken bones— part of the price you pay for saying “I do.”


And far up in New Hampshire where the state motto is “live free or die,” a proposed law would have mandated that the cops would need a warrant before they could arrest someone for domestic violence. Quite possibly, the abusive husband could have shouted that slogan at his bleeding wife well before the cops came knocking at the door, legal paper in hand, responding belatedly to a “shots fired!” 911 call from the neighbors. Fortunately, the proposal died a-borning.


Nothing brings out the legislative indignation more than abortion. Had proposed laws been adopted (fortunately they died a- borning like that New Hampshire law), a doctor in Iowa performing an abortion could have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. And in Oklahoma, State Sen. Ralph Shortey wanted to ban “food or any product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses.” This is the stuff of which horror movies and state legislation is created. In Delaware and, again, in Oklahoma, bills (quite possibly intended as jokes) occupied otherwise blank sheets of paper proposing that “waste of sperm” constituted “an action against an unborn child.” All across the country, teenage boys, surreptitiously studying anatomy in pilfered copies of “Penthouse” shuddered in terror at the prospect of jail time and resolved never again to be masters of their own domain. Yeah, right.


For many years I rode a bicycle to and from work, a round trip of about 10 miles. The exercise, considering Jefferson City’s Missouri River hills, kept me in tip top shape and all I had to worry about was a passenger in a car pulling up beside me and spitting on me (which happened once–it was a young woman holding a baby in her arms). Not once in all those years did I, while pedaling, quaff a cold one, or sip a cooling gin and tonic, even on a steamy summer day. Yet a burgeoning trend in cycling, mostly west of Missouri, is riding on so-called “brew bikes.”


These contraptions are an expansion of the historic “bicycle built for two” except that they support up to about 10 revelers, all pedaling in unison, while they throw down adult beverages. The brew cycles originated in Tucson, Arizona, back in the late nineteen nineties, after having been invented by a Dutch company. They now are popular in Europe where a number of cities allow passengers to drink while cycling.


A fellow named Robert Mayer owns and operates the wonderfully named Arizona Party Bike and Pedal  Crawler out of Tucson. He modified his bikes to include lights, a stereo, and a motor power system—apparently for when the multiple riders get too drunk to operate pedals. If you’re in the market for a pedal crawler, the starting price is about $38,000. In addition to Tucson party bikes exist in Dallas, Nashville, and Philadelphia.


Drinking while operating a motorized vehicle is pretty well accepted now as a violation of law, but for where there is a will there’s a way— I am reminded of the story of Ol’ Possum, George Jones, the wonderful late country legend who, when deprived of his car keys, drove his garden tractor to town to buy some booze. But cycling while drinking and/or drunk apparently has confused the lawmakers to the extent that what regulations do exist are…. Well, confused.


Even though the reaction to propose legislation often prompts citizens to exclaim, “what the hell are they smoking!” That very subject offers a rich opportunity  for lawmakers hoping to make a name for themselves, no matter how risible the proposed law.


Along with abortion, legislation over marijuana takes up an inordinate amount of time while, often, necessary legislation concerning public education, healthcare, and other apparently non-pressing issues languish. In a rare display of bipartisanship Republican Senators. Jacob Javits, Edward Brooke, and Democratic Senators Alan Cranston and Gaylord Nelson once proposed decriminalizing marijuana. But the issue still resounds in the halls of government nationwide and it is still illegal in most areas to go one toke over the line. The latest issue is a brand-new form of reefer madness— vaping with marijuana infused electronic cigarettes. Where there’s a will there’s a way.


While it isn’t proposed  legislative  language, the following quote from the nation’s Blowhard in Chief, the know it all who almost daily turns the English language into gibberish, could easily be the model for the next inane if not absolutely insane legislation to waste the time of the nation’s elected representatives. Here is Trump letting us all know how much he knows about wind energy generation:


“We’ll have an economy based on wind. I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. I’ve studied it better than anybody. I know it’s very expensive. They’re made in China and Germany mostly — very few made here, almost none. But they’re manufactured tremendous — if you’re into this — tremendous fumes. Gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint — fumes are spewing into the air. Right? Spewing. Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going into the air. It’s our air, their air, everything — right? So they make these things and then they put them up.”


There you go, wisdom from the top–talk about fumes spewing into the air!  We can always be thankful that they got Ceres back where she belongs atop the Missouri State Capitol before Trump mandated that she be tossed in the scrapheap and a statue of him in all his golden glory be installed in her place. On the other hand, maybe a few hundred lightning strikes to the head might knock some sense into him.










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