Texas hops on the Crazy Train again

Leo Berman

Hardy Haberman |  Dungeon Diary

Just when you think sanity might have been restored, the delightful Texas State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, has introduced a “birther” bill in the Texas Legislature. Berman is the same representative who was famously quoted as saying, “Barack Obama is God’s punishment on us.”

Now easy as it would be to just paint this guy with the broad brush and call him “frigging nuts,” he represents a real problem in this state and pretty much most of the U.S. For a long time the Democratic Party has believed that reason and facts would win the day. If there were ever an argument against that, the last election cycle would be it. That little debacle for the Dems was won not by reason but by emotion. Mostly it was fear and bigotry. Fear stoked by the economic situation many American’s find themselves in and bigotry disguised as the “Tea Party.” The whole “take America back” thing is about having a black man in the White House. Every other argument is predicated on that unspoken premise and a closer examination of their rhetoric will reveal it.

So, meanwhile the Dems keep relying on reason. How has that worked so far? Not at all.

The whole birther thing is a racially charged non-issue anyway, but don’t let reason get in the way of some good old fashioned fear. Even though the Obama birth certificate has been widely circulated and there is more than ample proof of his citizenship, the birthers persist. Why, because it is a good excuse to scare people and to tap into that old bigorty thing again.

So while I could just call Rep. Berman wacko, I will instead call him what he is, a politician who knows how to whip up his constituents with the most powerful tools in the GOP arsenal.

—  admin

Let’s all get aboard the crazy train!

Lately the crazy train has picked up speed. I don’t know if it’s the upcoming midterm elections or people are scared by gay court victories or what, but we’re in a period of nutty.

Take David Barton. Please.

An evangelical minister, teacher at (Glenn) Beck University and former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, Barton — a self-styled historian — is the founder of WallBuilders, a group devoted to the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation.

On his WallBuilders radio show recently, Barton discussed with Rick Green how health-conscious America is, regulating cigarettes and trans fats and salt, yet allowing something to slip through that is such an obvious threat to the health of Americans: Jersey Shore.

Okay, he didn’t say that. Instead, Barton reeled off fanciful statistics, like, “Homosexuals die decades earlier than heterosexuals,” and “nearly one-third [of homosexuals] admit to a thousand or more sex partners in a lifetime.”

Barton said, “I mean, you go through all this stuff, sounds to me like that’s not very healthy. Why don’t we regulate homosexuality?” That’s the moment he boarded the crazy train.

Barton, the quack historian, cited a 1920s study that found nations that “rejected sexual regulation like with homosexuality” didn’t last “past the third generation from the time that they embraced it.”

Have gays been embraced? When will the third generation appear? It’s important to know when we’re supposed to make this country collapse. We have a schedule to keep.

Rick Green’s role in this production was to be properly aghast that the breathtakingly unhealthy gay lifestyle is promoted and protected.

That makes Green — recently a candidate for the Texas Supreme Court — the porter on the crazy train.

If David Barton wants the government to regulate gay sex, Andrew Shirvell’s goal is much more modest. But Shirvell is the conductor on the crazy train. For almost six months, Shirvell has railed in a blog against Chris Armstrong, the openly gay University of Michigan student assembly president.

Shirvell, a Michigan grad, accused Armstrong of so many things — including being anti-Christian, hosting a gay orgy, trying to recruit freshmen to be gay and, my favorite, sexually seducing a conservative student and influencing him to the point that he “morphed into a proponent of the radical homosexual agenda.”

Good strategy, that seduction. Armstrong should be able to convert everybody on campus by the time he’s 106.
During his anti-Armstrong crusade, Shirvell protested outside Armstrong’s house, and called him “Satan’s representative on the student assembly.”Paranoid much? All this would be plenty bad enough, but the fact that Shirvell is a Michigan assistant attorney general launches the affair into the realm of the bizarre. Rod Serling couldn’t have made this up.

Shirvell’s boss, Attorney General Mike Cox, cited the guy’s right to free speech, while also telling CNN he’s a “bully.” Cox said that Shirvell’s “immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear.”

This is more than a case of bad judgment. Shirvell is obsessed with Armstrong’s homosexuality. I have to wonder if Shirvell — now on a voluntary leave of absence — is an immense closet case, or a few ties short of a railroad track.

Either explanation or both might apply to Fred Phelps, leader of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, but it’s his daughters who recently clambered on the crazy train.

Margie Phelps recently represented Westboro at the Supreme Court in the dispute over protests at military funerals, and after, while addressing the press, she and sister Shirley Phelps-Roper broke into song. They warbled a few lines of a variation on Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Osbourne declared his displeasure that they used his music to advance “despicable beliefs.”

When the Prince of Darkness looks civilized compared to you, your caboose is loose.

Leslie Robinson assumes the Phelps daughters will never sing Indigo Girls.  E-mail Robinson at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and visit her blog at GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Coupe de grace

Mercedes makes 2-doors way sexier than 4 with its E550

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer crwauto@aol.com


’10 E550 COUPE

Mercedes-Benz. 381 hp,
5.5 liter V8. 15/23-MPG city/hwy. As-tested price: $61,475

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Since my grandmother bought her first one after my grandfather died 35 years ago, I have been a fan of Mercedes. Generation after generation, the cars are solidly-built, timelessly-styled and always at the top of their class. Grandma always purchased entry-level sedans: Two 280Es, a 190E and C220. She would drive them 170,000 miles and trade them off for the next generation — often without ever driving it. She just knew she would be pleased and was never disappointed.

Mercedes Benz E550
SPORTY COOL | The Mercedes Benz E550 offers the best of both worlds with nods to classic Mercedes builds and high tech interior features with a powerful engine that takes you from 0 to 60 in five seconds.

Mercedes coupes have always been more special than their sedans. I love the E Sedan as much as uninspiring professors probably liked the Ponton sedans in the ‘50s, but the more fabulous among us go for coupes: They’re sexy, but no less reliable, and will be the ones to covet decades from now. I still remember the new E-Coupe my doctor purchased in the late ‘80s. It looked great next to his red Mercedes 560SL!

Still sharing basic vehicle architecture with the C-Class, the latest E-Class Coupe takes a giant step upmarket in terms of styling and refinement. A more traditional Mercedes, the car feels as if a defiant Kim Jong Il couldn’t disturb it even if he went completely off the crazy train.

There are more traditional styling cues outside, but the design is wholly anchored in the next decade. A broad star-strewn grille shifts wind with twin lamellas running across, reaching to large headlamps with separate driving lamps between — a take from earlier Mercedes coupes with their large round headlamps and inset foglamps.

LED lamps in the lower facia step up to Audi’s challenge while AMG 18-in. alloy wheels could be on nothing other than a Mercedes. A tight arching roofline is ultra-sleek with the look of Mercedes’ CLS, but the accentuated rear fenders hearken back to the ‘50s. The E550 Coupe is a blend of Mercedes’ historic design cues, rendered in a new and fresh way.

If my doctor had to make a fast trip to the hospital (a continent away), the E550 would have been ready for the run. The car’s chiseled sloping hood shields a 5.5-liter 32-valve V8 engine that produces 382 horsepower and 391 lb.-ft. of torque. A standard 7-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddle shifters moves power to the rear wheels as smoothly as a tank trashing an ant. Step on the go pedal and the stout coupe scamps from 0–60 mph in about 5 seconds flat. Fuel economy is rated 15/23-MPG city/hwy.

INSIDE JOB | High tech options accent sleek lines.

Like the exterior, passenger space is a blend of tradition and contemporary elegance. You could step out of a 1975 Mercedes Coupe and be instantly familiar with the dash-mounted ignition switch, gated gear selector, left-dash light switch, and large center speedometer flanked by auxiliary gauges. Even the low turn stalk and upper left placement of the cruise control stick are exactly where your grandmother remembers them. Some may think these features are quaint and should be changed, but I have a healthy respect for tradition. So do Mercedes owners who really don’t care to have these things altered.

However, they are just fine with the onslaught of technology that invaded Mercedes cabins in recent years. Navigation, Bluetooth for phone connectivity, Sirius Satellite Radio, and heated/cooled leather seats keep owners art to the state. Radar cruise control maintains a set distance from vehicles in front on the highway. Technology or not, the brown dashtop is the perfect accent for hand-polished burl walnut on the dash, doors, and front and rear center consoles. What looks chrome, is. And, if it looks like timber, it could be ground to sawdust.

Mercedes’ renowned safety is accounted for in heaps. Of course, it has four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, brake force distribution, and cornering control. Dual front, side, and side curtain airbags are standard. Our test car came with PRE-SAFE, a system that uses a radar unit behind the grille emblem to detect an impending accident, alert the driver, and even apply brakes automatically if he does not react quickly enough. Attention Assist detects drowsiness in the driver’s behavior from sensors in the steering and brake systems, and then illuminates a little coffee cup in the instrument cluster to wake him up.

Driving the E550 Coupe is a delight. Nothing upsets the car’s continuously variable damping system suspension. A car that feels incredibly heavy and stable at high speed turns into a lithe sport coupe when tossed about. It can drive 1,000-mile days as happily as attacking two-lane mountain passes.

The E550 Coupe is a stunning automobile, sure to make a scene wherever it rolls. Stunningly modern, it would still be recognized as a Mercedes on any planet. My grandmother would like it, but my doctor would love it. Go for the equally-impressive cabriolet and he could kick both the E320 and SL560 to the Classic Center and not miss either one. Base prices start at $54,650, but our test car came to $61,475.

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BABY GOT BACK | The C30’s retro rear was a selling point for Cooper. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Drivers seat

Name: Jon Cooper.

Occupation: Store operations support for Zales and part-time historical studies major at UTD.

Car: Volvo C30 T5.

Isn’t that the Twilight movie car? Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob? If someone mentions that movie one more time, I’m gouging their eyes out. Unless he’s hot.

The official color of your car is: Titanium grey metallic.

How long have you owned this car? A year and a half.

What was your last car? Ford Explorer Sport.

So why this one? After years of settling I finally decided to hell with it, I’m getting something nice!

It’s sporty — does it get good gas mileage? Not bad, 28 mpg combined.

Are you a faster driver now? Some have accused me of driving like a grandma, but the turbo is definitely turning me into a lead foot.

Best car memory: The first “Oh crap!” during a rain storm when all the safety features kicked in.

What’s playing in your music player? My iPod shuffles a mix from Keith Urban to Franz Ferdinand to Colton Ford with the occasional show tune.

What kind of maintenance do you do on your own? On this car? I ain’t touching anything!

What are the rules of your car? Be gentle and don’t screw with my seat settings.

How do you rate this car to previous ones? Considering my first car was a 1976 AMC Pacer, it’s definitely a step up.

This is a higher class car for you. Are you a power gay now? Definitely not.  An easy gay?  Yes.

Funniest road trip story? I did take it on a camping trip last spring.  I got a few raised eyebrows and head shakes from the hardcore SUV crowd.

What makes it sexy? Leather, baby!  Leath-uh!

Do the seats recline all the way for those special dates? Special what?

Where is one place you’d like to really drive your car? To my graduation ceremony next spring.

Would you put a Pride sticker on it? The only intelligent quote from The Real Housewives of New Jersey: “Would you put a bumper sticker on a Bentley?”  Maybe a Texas-shaped rainbow sticker on the license plate.

Foreign v. domestic? What are we talking about — guys or cars?

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens