the mouse that quibbles

the mouse that quibbles

Friday, March 2, 2012

Miss Manners for Republicans

(with sincere apologies to Judith Martin)

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a young woman in my early 20s, a law student at Georgetown University, and I recently testified on Capitol Hill after being denied the opportunity of appearing before a Senate Committee consisting only of men from conservative religious organizations on the proposed contraceptive mandate. Because of this, a well-known conservative talk show host has targeted me for public abuse, calling me a “slut” and a “prostitute” and demanding I make sex tapes so he can view them on-line. I’m stunned and outraged, what should I do?

GENTLE READER: As Miss Manners understands it, the talk-show host in question is notorious for his disgraceful behaviour, and is openly enjoying the appalled reaction by civilized people as being “absolutely hilarious.” Such people are impervious to well-meaning attempts to impart good manners, nevermind instill any sense of humanity or decency. Your best course of action is to continue holding yourself to the standards of civil discourse, and conduct yourself with the same grace and dignity as you have been against misogynistic, vitriolic attacks.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a Republican presidential candidate who has long been a supporter of a conservative talk show host who recently has been making public denunciations of a young law student who is becoming a champion for women’s health care rights. My demographics with women is flagging, and I’m actively trying to woo the little lady vote. But I don’t want to offend my good friend, the talk show host. I’ve said that he’s being absurd, but that, you know... an entertainer can be absurd. He’s in a very different business than I am. Do you think this response is enough?

GENTLE READER: Miss Manners considers slandering a young woman in the most offensive way possible because your ideology is different from hers deserves a far stronger response than calling it “absurd” and following even that weak criticism with the excuse that the talk show host is an “entertainer” and thus somehow exempt from the same expectations of decent behaviour as the rest of us. Unfortunately, I think this reaction shows you are somewhat less than sincere about your disapproval of such egregious behaviour, and most well-bred and sensible women are intelligent enough to realise this. I’m afraid you may struggle in your attempts to persuade women to vote for you, given the lack of genuine ethics and character you continue to exhibit.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am also a Republican presidential candidate and supporter of the conservative talk show host who humiliated and slandered that young law student. Unlike my Republican Presidential opponents, I’ve chosen to remain above the fray, and have stayed conspicuously silent, particularly since every time I open my mouth, my foot seems to reflexively get stuck between my teeth. But I’m being pressured by Democratic colleagues and even television journalists to speak out against my old, dear friend, and defend some sex-crazed slut I’ve never met and am never likely to meet, considering the vast abyss that exists between my own elite social group and the majority of the unwashed American hoi polloi I’m forced to pretend to empathise with. Is avoiding any further embarrassing gaffes and my “do no harm” strategy likely to help me win my bid to be the Republican challenger?

GENTLE READER: Miss Manners has always regarded a “do no harm” attitude to be advisable, but in this particular case, I feel you aren’t so much doing no harm as you are doing nothing at all. Standing by and keeping one’s mouth shut while allowing a member of your social group to savagely abuse an innocent woman is not commendable behaviour, much as watching a thief mug someone in an back alley but doing nothing to help, not even call the police, is not admirable either. It is, in fact, at best a mark of cowardice and at worst a form of tacit approval, which does not bode well for anyone who is seriously considering running for the most important position in our great country. The absence of good manners is as serious a breach of etiquette as blatant bad manners, and shows a lack of judgment on a par with shoving the family dog into a kennel tied to the roof of your car.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I hold a senior position in the government, and am quite proud of my reputation for being brusque, telling my colleagues to “get your ass in line” whenever they disagree with me, or calling the financial rescue plan a “crap sandwich,” the climate bill a “pile of shit,” or letting the President know I was “pissed” he wouldn’t cave in to overhauling the tax code to my liking. I was seriously annoyed by a recent letter by House Democrats urging me to condemn some controversial comment made by my BFF, a conservative talk show host. I had to think about it for a good couple days before I decided to release a press statement through my spokeman saying that I believe the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation. I didn’t even use any swear words, either. So isn’t that good enough?

GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is naturally not a big fan of profanity, and considers a recurrent potty-mouth to be juvenile behaviour unbecoming a leading member of Congress. But I’d like to address a much more serious failing than your chronic vulgarity; a condemnation of an offending party that then turns it into an attack those defending the injured party is not a condemnation at all. A mealy-mouthed, pathetically feeble reprimand followed on by a hypocritical accusation is not a quality required of a political leader. Perhaps you should consider another line of work where such boorishness is better suited.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m the governor of Arizona who officially greeted President Obama at the airport and handed him a nice letter I wrote myself in my very best handwriting on fancy Executive Office stationery, explaining that while we fundamentally disagree on just about everything I’d like to show him the error of his ways by taking him on a tour of the border, and even said I’d pick up the tab for lunch while we talked about jobs and the economy. But then he brought up my book, in which I repeatedly took potshots at him, writing he publicly mocked our great state, lectured me about immigration reform and he was condescending and patronizing. He said that he didn’t feel I’d treated him cordially! How thin-skinned is that? So, y’know what I did? I told him, “You have one more year!” He’s gonna be a one-term president if I’ve got anything to do with it. That uppity man needed to be reminded he’s not a king lording it over state governors, how dare he have the audacity to sue me and Arizona in my efforts to protect our country from brown peopl... er... illegal immigrants! Then some pesky photographer took a picture of me jabbing my finger in the President’s face while we were talking, before he just up and walked away from me in mid-sentence! Well, I would never have walked away from anyone having a conversation like that, it was just so disrespectful! And I even felt a bit threatened, because I mean, y’know how scary black folks get when they’re mad. Now he’s got the chutzpah to say it was no big deal, that it was all just a publicity stunt! How do I tell him this really hurt my feelings, and that he’s a mean, mean man?

GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is somewhat at a loss. Although I agree that some startlingly impolite dialogue did occur, I think it would likely fall on deaf ears should I point out a gracious hostess does not stick fingers in the face of a guest, or that President Obama behaved with remarkable restraint, all things considered. But somehow I think the concerns you’ve described are beyond the purview of an etiquette expert. Perhaps you might want to seek out the services of a good psychiatrist?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m a Republican Congressman from Oklahoma who recently said that I’d like to hold a gun to the heads of my political opponents in the House and maybe kill a couple of them, even emphasising my comment by making a gun with my fingers in case anyone didn’t get what I was saying. I, like the Speaker of the House, used an intermediary and sent my spokeman to deliver an apology. He said I offered my sincere apologies to anyone I offended and for using a poor choice of words to make my point – which is that Senate Democrats are refusing to pass a budget while I’m feeling the pain of millions of Americans. But I’m still catching flak. Why won’t anyone accept my apology?

GENTLE READER: Because it wasn’t a real apology! Miss Manners is deeply puzzled why that’s such a hard concept for some people to grasp. When Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal apologised for comparing Michelle Obama to the Grinch, he said ‘to those I have offended, I am sorry, that was not my intent.’ That is not an apology! One apologises for having committed an offence, not for how it makes someone else feel!

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m a chief judge in Montana who recently circulated a racist joke emailed from my official courthouse address to my friends and family, likening President Obama to a dog and deeply insulting to his late mother. I’ve sent apologies via a couple local newspapers, but I’m not really racist, just anti-Obama, and besides, it’s just politics. Hey, I’ve said I’m sorry, do I really deserve calls to step down? I mean, c’mon, it was funny, right?

GENTLE READER: You did what? Oh, for pete’s sake... Miss Manners will try yet again to explain, that wasn’t actually an apology. An apology takes responsibility for the harm you’ve done, rather than trying to explain why it wasn’t really wrong, and deflecting the blame. Telling racist, misogynist jokes is the act of a racist misogynist, not a matter of “politics.” The President and his mother have done nothing, personally or politically, to deserve being ridiculed in such an offensive manner. Moreover, you’re a representative of the federal government, and as such have a duty to behave in a manner befitting a member of the court rather than a sniggering 15-year-old yob telling off-colour jokes to his bonehead friends. The utter lack of prudence, as well as overt disrespect for the office of the President of the United States, clearly demonstrates your lack of impartiality necessary to remain in a position with the power to pass legal or moral judgment on anyone else, if not at outright violation of federal codes of conduct for which you certainly should resign.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m an unsuccessful GOP candidate for governor in Iowa and a Christian conservative leader who wrote a pledge promoting the sanctity of marriage vows and offered to endorse any Republican candidates who would sign it, as many did, including Michelle Bachman and Rick Santorum. But it took some flak over a section that claimed black people born into slavery were more likely to be raised in a two-parent family than an African-American baby born after the election of Barack Obama. I had my spokesman from Family Leaders issue an apology, saying we agree that the statement referencing children born into slavery can be “misconstrued”, which detracts from our much more important mission to declare marriage should be only between one man and one woman. We sincerely apologised for any negative feelings this caused. But them gosh-durned liberals and feminists and gay rights bunch are still complaining! Why are they being so stubborn?

GENTLE READER: Because it wasn’t a real apology! You made a totally inappropriate statement, they didn’t “misconstrue” anything! It’s not a genuine apology if you’re not really sorry, and just keep right on... oh, never mind. Miss Manners knows when she’s flogging a dead horse.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Hello, again. It’s me, the Republican front-runner. I’ve been thinking about your advice on not denouncing my friend for saying mean things about some sex-crazed co-ed, and I’ve decided to come out strongly after all, speaking with passion and conviction from the heart, and said it’s not the language I would have used, but I’d rather focus on, like, the issues and jobs and, y’know, other stuff. Will that work?


Thursday, March 1, 2012

It's Time to Stop Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh has made his considerable fortune from espousing extreme rightwing views and attacking opponents with hate-filled, vitriolic rhetoric for years. A large portion of the American radio audience has long found it entertaining, although those numbers are starting to wane considerably. The nation’s first all-conservative talk radio station, KVI in Seattle, switched back to its classic rock format shortly after the elections in 2010, after 17 years of supporting rightwing talk shows. An Arbitron report released less than a year ago showed rating for Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity had fallen sharply, down 33% and 28% respectively. Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates both shows, expressed their lack of concern for the report, saying even with such a sharp drop Limbaugh and Hannity “continue to be No. 1 and No. 2.”

Such unmitigated support has allowed Limbaugh to really pull out all the stops in recent days and release his inner psychotic, unleashing an attack on Sandra Fluke, who testified before Congress about the problem of women’s lack of access to contraceptions, that bordered on if not downright was legally slanderous, calling the Georgetown University Law School student a “slut” and a “prostitute.”.

“Who bought your condoms in sixth grade?” Limbaugh said, “Who bought your contraceptive pills in high school?" Then he mocked her in much the same way he mocked Michael J. Fox’s battle with Parkinson’s disease, impersonating Fluke in baby voice and pretending to cry. “I'm going broke having sex. I need government to provide me condoms and contraception. It's not fair.” He then took it one disgusting step further, calling for Miss Fluke, “and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online, so we can all watch.”

You only wish, you narrow-minded Oxycontin- popping pervert. This, from the guy who along with four of his best buddies, most of them from Fox, flew to the Dominican Republic for a “stag party” on a Gulfstream IV jet owned by Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates his radio program, along with 29 100mg pills of Viagra issued in someone else’s name. Methinks it’s not Georgetown law students who are abnormally obsessed with sex.

His remarks have left genuine journalists such as Martin Bashir and Jonathan Capehart speechless with shock, and set off a backlash of anger from House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D – NY), and Judy Chu (D – CA). Rush Limbaugh reacted to the outrage by finding the “conniption fit” of Democrats “absolutely hilarious,” enjoying the response he generated much like a sadistic little boy enjoys pouring lighter fluid down an anthill and lighting it, laughing as the ants scurry around helplessly. If only Congress were more like a hornet’s nest, with some real sting to their disapproval. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has drafted a sent a letter of protest to Speaker John Boehner and circulated a petition, which you can find here, demanding Republican leaders likewise condemn Limbaugh “repulsive attacks on women,” and for “Republican leaders to stand up and say they don’t want him to defend them anymore.” But while more than 75 Democratic House Members have so far signed a letter to House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday urging him to condemn Limbaugh’s remarks, there seems, however, to be a singular lack of signatures, and a deafening silence, from the Republican side of the House.

But that’s what Limbaugh is counting on. The Republican’s tacit approval of his behaviour, as well as the not-so-silent encouragement from other rightwing media hacks, such as Megyn Kelly and Trace Gallager, who yucked it up with glee on Fox’s America Live, Gallager saying, “I was going to go to law school, but I thought all you did was study at law school... what’s going on at Georgetown, when do they study?” and Monica Crowley sneering, ‘Cry me a river,” at the steep financial burden of attending law school making it difficult to afford contraceptives. “Now the American people are supposed to be paying for someone to have sex?” Dana Loesch denounced anyone using contraceptives as “acting like nymphos. That’s what they act like.”

How astoundingly facile, and how outrageously spiteful, of these conservative talking heads to completely, and deliberately, ignore those women who need contraceptives for other purposes than “recreational” sex. Oral contraceptives are widely used to treat the symptoms of dysmenorrhea, severe menstrual pain, as well as excessive menstrual bleeding, or menorrhagia, which can lead to anaemia – something up to 40% of all adult women have experienced, with pain and bleeding acute enough to prevent a woman from attending school or going to work. I know this personally, because I was one of those 40%, prescribed oral contraceptives as a teenager for just this problem long before I became sexually active as an adult. It also had a beneficial side effect, which oral contraceptives are regularly used to treat, in reducing acne outbreaks, so severe before treatment that it left me with permanent scars on my face. It is also used in the treatment of hormone imbalances that can lead to excess hair growth, menstrual-related migraines, and pelvic pain from endometriosis and bleeding from uterine fibroids. In other words, oral contraceptives isn’t just for those “nymphos” and “sex-crazed co-eds” making imaginary sex tapes Rush Limbaugh dreams about getting his Viagra bolstered rocks off while watching.

Luckily, Limbaugh and the rest of the lock-step bimbos on Fox working as his own personal pep squad are picking on someone who has more grace, class and courage under fire than they’re used to. Sandra Fluke has already demonstrated amazing strength in testifying before Congress, and has released a statement calling these personal attacks on her and on women in general “egregious” and declaring that those who speak out for comprehensive women’s health care “will not be silenced.”

Nor should anyone who is sick and tired of these despicable tactics by rightwing extremists like Rush Limbaugh. It’s time we ants became hornets, and start stinging where it hurts them the most – in the pocketbook. It’s well past time to stop Rush Limbaugh. Time to tell Premiere Radio Networks and their owners, Clear Channel the shameful antics of Limbaugh and Hannity, like Glen Beck, are not beneficial to America. Contact them here, tell them what you think of their support for bigotry and hatred being espoused by Rush Limbaugh. Tell those advertisers who pay for Limbaugh’s endorsement that you won’t be buying products from people who help promote this sort of intolerance against women. We can start with Carbonite, endorced by “El Rushbo”, and no stranger to dodgy business practices themselves, already caught using their employees to rig Amazon reviews. Contact them here. Give Apple a bite, tell them their Limbaugh app is full of worms. Contact them here. Tell ProFlowers their Limbaugh bouquets stink. Tell Oreck Upright Vacuum Cleaners their support of Limbaugh sucks. Tell the American Forces Network to give our men and women in uniform more respect and a better reason to defend their country than Limbaugh’s unpatriotic rantings.

Feel free to visit this Facebook page and this website, which has more companies to chose from, as well as contact details for the Chairman and CEO, the President and COO, and other executives at Clear Channel and other network affliations that support the Rush Limbaugh radio show. And if you don’t think this sort of thing works, why not send a note of thanks to those companies who have chosen to withdraw their support, like Dominos Pizza, and Ted Ward of Geico.

We can get rid of this malicious chauvinist pervert. We just have to speak out loudly enough.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Lamentable Demise of the Republican Party

I enjoy reading The Onion, even more so when those it lampoons don't get the joke. But while satire is meant to be amusing, it quite often reflects a more serious state of affairs. A recent Onion post on a captive breeding programme designed to save the critically endangered moderate Republican had me laughing, before it had me thinking.

Because, actually... they’re right. The Republican Party truly is dying. For all intents and purposes, it’s already dead, the only impression of life being the lurching about of animated zombies eating their own brains, leaving the traditional mainstream moderate Republican conservative embarrassed and frustrated. The traditional mainstream moderate conservatives aren’t even in reality Republicans any longer, as the party itself has deteriorated from the rot of tea party fanaticism, and Koch Brother corruption, and the constant barrage Fox propaganda posing as journalism, and hate-filled blustering talk shows spewing hydrophobic nonsense, and the jaw-droppingly atrocious bunch of incompetent idiots posing as GOP Presidential candidates. All that is left of a once respectable political party is the name “Republican” for nostalgic conservatives to cling to.

Which is so not good for our country. If disaffected Republicans ever managed to purge themselves of the zombies and the tea partiers and the Limbaughs and Fox and regrouped as something else, much like New Labour rebranded itself in the UK (although New Labour turned out to be just Tory Lite rather than any sort of improved Labour party), Democrats might finally have genuine opponents again - which would be both a bit scary and a bit hopeful. A nation runs best when there's an honourable opposition to keep the ruling party honest, regardless of what party is in power. An honourable opposition represents a very large proportion of the nation’s citizenship, and gives that citizenship a strong voice. An honourable opposition works harder at designing and proposing alternative ideas in the hope that the good they can do will garner them enough votes next go-round at the polls. I’d like to see an honourable opposition again.

Right now, that just doesn't exist, and it's not good for either side. Right now, we have a Republican party usurped by loons and goons whose only goal is to bring down President Obama, regardless of the cost to the country, regardless of the damage. Oh, they have a few other ulterior motives, like imposing an authoritarian religious regime on the country that would give hardline Sharia law a run for its money, revoking decades of progressive advancement and what little civil liberties we’ve got left after the Bush administration was through. But repairing our badly damaged and crumbling roads, our airports, bridges, dams, levees, schools, hospitals, national parks, our electrical and water grids? Creating badly needed jobs and strengthening an economy teetering on the edge of collapse? No, that’s not even a blip on their radar, too busy preaching tax cuts for the rich and “austerity” and “sacrifice” for everyone else, like a fat man telling someone dying of starvation the way to get better is to eat even less. And as a result, we have a Democratic Party gradually starting to lose its way as well, rife with DINOs and Blue Dogs and the incompetent or lazy or co-opted. Without an honourable opposition, we have very little with which to keep our party honest. We need a strong, healthy, honourable Republican Party to stay strong, healthy and honourable ourselves.

The Republican Party was once a champion of civil rights, personal responsibility and a regulated government, and engendered people like Abraham Lincoln , Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. Today, Mitt Romney’s father would not recognise the Republican Party his son would like to head, Ronald Reagan’s son says his father would be furious with what the Republican party has become - a party utterly dominated by the rich, the religious fanatic, the psychotic, and the jingoistic bigot. The last remnants of the decent, honourable Old Time Republican party are either senile or dead, what’s left is vitriolic, mean-spirited and downright stupid.

There is no Republican Party any longer. It has the name, but it long ago lost its mind before it lost its soul. And I, for one, truly do mourn its passing.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

When Parody Becomes Reality

cross-posted at C&L:

When the Republican dominated Virginia senate proposed a bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, one of their own finally had had enough. Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) attached an amendment to the bill that would require men to have a rectal exam and cardiac stress test before being prescribed Viagra for erectile dysfunction. "We need some gender equality here."

She didn't get it. While her amendment failed, the rest of the bill passed. Rush Limbaugh can be reassured Virginia will protect his God-given right to a stiffy while making sure the women of their fair state will be forced to pay for an unnecessary and expensive ultrasound and view images of the fetus before an abortion can be performed. This particularly cruel act proves yet again that Republicans consider women to be very little more than walking wombs without the same rights over their own bodies that men enjoy over theirs.

But it started a trend. When Republican Senator Brian Crain of Tulsa, Oklahoma, introduced Bill SB 1433, otherwise known as the "Personhood" bill, seeking to legally define human life as beginning at conception, even before implantation in the womb, and offering more legal protection to a one-celled zygote than its fully grown adult mother, Democratic Senator Constance Johnson had had enough - she introduced an amendment declaring every sperm must be likewise sacred. "Any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child."

"As a woman and a 31-year veteran of the legislative process in Oklahoma," she wrote, "I am increasingly offended by state law trends that solely focus on the female's role in the reproductive process. With Oklahoma's new, never-before-experienced Republican majority, we are seeing enactment of more and more measures that adversely affect women and their rights to access safe medical procedures when making reproductive healthcare decisions.

My action to amend the so-called 'Personhood' bill - SB 1433, introduced by Senator Brian Crain (Republican, Tulsa) – represents the culmination of my and many other Oklahomans' frustration regarding the ridiculousness of our reproductive policy initiatives in Oklahoma. I have received overwhelmingly positive responses from men and women in Oklahoma – and worldwide. The Personhood bill would potentially allow governmental intrusion into families' personal lives by policing what happens to a woman's eggs without any similar thought to what happens to a man's sperm.

My amendment seeks to draw attention to the absurdity, duplicity and lack of balance inherent in the policies of this state in regard to women. Oklahoma already incarcerates more women than any other place in the world. Under the latest provisions, a woman in Oklahoma may now face additional criminal charges and potential incarceration for biological functions that produce or, in some cases, destroy eggs or embryos, such as a miscarriage. In vitro fertilization, involving the fertilization outside the womb for implantation into the womb, would also potentially represent a violation of the proposed Personhood statute.

Finally, this amendment seeks to draw humorous attention to the hypocrisy and inconsistency of this proposal – from the Republican perspective of down-sized government and less government intrusion into people's private affairs. Despite the great challenges our state faces, it is far more important that we address issues such as affordable healthcare to help improve our state's ranking of 48th in health status; to create good, secure jobs that grow our economy; and ensure that all citizens have access to quality, affordable education."

Nor was the outrage felt only by women - in solidarity with his colleague, Democrat Jim Wilson proposed an additional amendment to the bill that would make the father of an unborn child financially responsible for its mother's health care, housing, transportation and nourishment while she is pregnant. Unsurprisingly, Wilson's amendment also failed in a Republican dominated Senate. While Oklahoma Republicans seek to control women's bodies, they hypocritically also wish to excuse men from any responsibility whatsoever for their contribution to the creation of an unborn child.

Thankfully, a similar bill to the Oklahoma "Personhood" 1433 bill was defeated at the polls in Mississippi last November. But this insidious movement, supported by almost every Republican Presidential candidate, aims to overthrow the 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling, the Supreme Court decision legalizing a woman's right to chose a safe medical abortion, and is gaining momentum with nearly every single Republican presidential candidate signing on to the so-called "Personhood Pledge" vowing to make abortion illegal, for any reason whatsoever.

Rightwing Republicans do not give a damn about women, not their human rights, not their bodies, not their health or welfare. We're just biological incubators to them. Nor do they really care about the unborn, either - once that blastocystic blob of cells with all the rights under the 14th amendment becomes an actual living, breathing baby, it's on its own, in a country with the worst infant mortality and poverty levels in the western world. So while it is nice to see politicians like Janet Howell, Constance Johnson and Jim Wilson finding creative ways to highlight Republican dishonesty and push back against the misogynistic and even misanthropic power-hungry hypocrites in the Republican party, it's going to take a lot more than amusing amendments to truly malicious bills to stop the rightwing from turning back the clock even further than they've already managed to do.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The (Sur)real Cupcake War

cross-posted at C&L

By now, the story of Rebecca Hains's frosted cupcake confiscated by an overly zealous (or possibly just hungry) TSA Security Officer at a Los Vegas airport has gone viral, leading to asatirical song, and the sudden burst in popularityat the bakery which creates this 'traditional style red velvet cake with Madagascar Bourbon vanilla cream cheese buttercream frosting' cupcake in a jar, now redubbed the National (Security) Velvet Cupcake (with the packaging redesigned to make it safe for air travel). Possibly the only dangerous thing about this cupcake is what it might do to your cholesterol levels.

The rationale - if one can use that word here without sniggering - behind the confiscation of a cupcake is the Transportation Security Administration's rule enforcing the 3-ounce limit for gels in carry-on luggage, ostensibly to prevent terrorists sneaking explosive aboard an airplane. But once we're finished with shaking our heads in disbelief and having a bit of a laugh... it might be advisable to look at this incident from a slightly more serious angle.

The Transport Security Administration was created as part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act sponsored by Republican Congressman Don 'Bridge to Nowhere' Young, signed into law barely a month after the 9/11 attacks, and transferred out of the US Department of Transportation and into the Department of Homeland Security itself in 2003. The stated missionof the Transport Security Administration is to protect 'the Nation's [sic] transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.' Yet since its inception, the TSA has been the focus of one idiotic bungle after another, supposedly in the name of fighting terrorism, making freedom of movement for people and commerce far harder than it's ever been - for everyone, including politicians.

Rand Paul is hardly the first US politician to finally start objecting to the TSA's intrusive security searches, although he might be one of the most hypocritical, as he was on his way to Washington DC to speak at an anti-abortion March for Life rally. Don't anyone dare even think about touching his body, but he has no problem with government telling women what they can and cannot do with theirs. Representative Sharon Cissna (D-Alaska) endured far more than what Mr Paul suffered, after refusing an 'enhanced' full-body pat-down last year after the TSA in Seattle decided her mastectomy and gel-filled prosthetic breast insert required further investigation, the second time Ms Cissna was subjected to a pat-down. She took a ferry instead from Prince Rupert, BC to Juneau rather than fly, and had been a champion for the rights of travellers since. 'The freedom of travel should never come at the price of basic human dignity and pride,' she said.

So far, Congress's only idea of a solution is to pass the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Business Travel Card bill, allowing security-vetted businessmen, politicians and other such more important people than the general public to use special designated immigration lanes to fast track their entry and exit at airports (currently only designated for flight crews) along with special visa exemptions as well But for the rest of us mere mortals, the examples of TSA affronts to normal human dignity and pride are copious.

How about the Kafkaesque incident of a confiscated knife... taken from the pilot of the airplane, a small butterknife from a set of silverware he'd routinely carried in his flightdeck carry-on... issued by the airline itself, the same silverware that accompanies meals on long-haul flights. It even had the airline's logo stamped on it.

Or how the TSA completely missed a fairly hefty four-inch knife locking Swiss Army knife in a passenger's backpack, too busy confiscating his potentially life-threatening unopened packet ofHunts Pudding Snack.

Or Jill Flipovic, travelling from New Jersey to Ireland, who discovered a note in her baggage left by the TSA agent who found a 'personal item' - the battery operated kind popular with ladies - which read, 'Get your freak on girl'.

No weapon is too small to consider potentially lethal, either, as British tourist Judy Powell found out when she tried to bring an 11-inch GI Joe action doll, a gift for her grandson, still in its unopened box through security at LAX. The TSA confiscated Joe's 2 inch plastic gun, and actually asked if there were any toy plastic grenades with the doll. Little George was not impressed, who declared his nana's explanation of events as 'silly.' Out of the mouths of babes.

And then there's the Dallas hairdresser incensed by TSA security officers digging their fingers into her scalp, searching her Afro for weapons.

But far too many incidents are not quite as amusing. The frantic mother of 17-year old Virginia Gibbs didn't find it very funny to have to drive from Jacksonville to Orlando to pick up her daughter after the girl was held as a security risk so long she missed her flight, all because the TSA took exception to Virginia's leather handbag with an embroidered handgun on it as decoration, a handbag the girl had carried through the airport several times before without incident.

Nor was the 88-year-old great-grandmother of seven amused when two TSA agents demanded to know what the suspicious bulge in her trousers was - and told to drop her jogging pants to show them her colostomy bag . Or the 66-year old diabetic strip searched after the insulin pump on one leg and the glucose monitor on the other set off the metal detector. Or the woman forced to pull down both her slacks and underwear after she asked to forgo the full-body scan out of concern it would interfere with her heart defibrillator. Or the former bladder cancer patient soaked in his own urine when a TSA agent burst his urostomy bag during a pat-down - not once, but twice. Or the 95-year-old woman stricken with leukaemia forcibly stripped of her 'suspiciously wet and firm' Depends adult diaper at a Florida airport, leaving her without a spare, or any other underwear, with which to travel.

Not too funny, is it?

There's the couple with a 10-month old baby travelling in winter between two cities notorious for weather delays who brought extra baby food, just in case, only to be told they'd brought too much. The TSA confiscated a jar of potentially lethal prunes, one of hazardous mashed bananas, and a bottle of suspicious baby formula. To bring that much food on board, they would need a doctor's note. Both parents are doctors.

Of course, Monica Emmerson had to do them one better; her 19-month-old toddler's sippy cup was confiscated by the TSA at Ronald Reagan Airport because it contained... water. To prove it was only water, Ms Emmerson offered to drink from the sippy cup herself, and spilled it. TSA security officers demanded she clean up the mess, which she did on hands and knees, and threatened her with arrest, mostly for 'disrespecting' the officers, and held her so long she missed her flight. The kicker? Monica Emmerson is a former law enforcement officer herself with the US Secret Service.

How about 14-year-old Elliot Gosko, who was forced to drink pond water he was carrying for a school science experiment, who unsurprisingly became quite ill afterwards - not to mention the possibility he could contract giardia in the next twenty years as a result, as those parasites are hard to diagnose in the early states.

Or the tired 57-year old Haitian who had just arrived at Kennedy airport and was looking for a cab, mistakenly opening an emergency exit... setting off alarms and sirens, which one assumes a real terrorist would have been keen to avoid. The entire terminal was evacuated for more than two hours while police swept the building with dogs and SWAT teams, stranding inbound planes and delaying departures for several hours. Jules Bouloute was arraigned on charges of first-degree criminal tampering and third degree criminal trespass, punishable by up to seven years in prison. For opening a door.

Those are just the stories that are reported in the news. It doesn't take a very extensive search on the internet to find one anecdote after another on forums and in comments about the asinine treatment and confiscations being routinely done by the TSA. A group of tourists who had taken a tour of the Louisville Slugger factory, who were prevented from taking souvenir mini-baseball bats on board - so gave them away to a couple of National Guardsmen on security detail, bemused by what possible Punch and Judy hijack scenario the TSA imagined possible with teeny tiny baseball bats.

A woman with a three year old at Ronald Reagan airport, stuck on a plane for over an hour waiting to take off, who asked a flight attendant her child could go to the bathroom. She was told it was not allowed, and offered a blanket for the child to pee on instead, in her clothing, in front of other passengers. The girl refused and cried until the plane finally took off and she was allowed to use the restroom.

A snowglobe given to a five-year-old as a Christmas present from her grandparents confiscated from the distraught child's backpack and thrown away, while the TSA scolded the child because it could be used to 'make a bomb.'

The frequent-flyer woman, concerned about the possible ramifications of radiation to her fertility, who refused to submit to the back-scatter x-ray machine and opted for the pat-down instead... and was shocked when the TSA officer pulled on the waistband of her pants to peer down into her clothing front and back - she won't be wearing a thong again to the airport.

The passenger who'd forgotten to drink everything in his $15 drink bottle, and told by a TSA security officer that he couldn't just drink what was left and go through, but he could leave the security area, then drink the water, and return to the back of the line where he'd probably wait so long he'd miss his flight.

One of our own staffers on C&L had her child's apple-scented hand lotion confiscated on a flight from California to New York, and her toothpaste confiscated on the way back. But the pepper spray keychain at the bottom of her handbag sailed through unnoticed.

I could go on and on and on, and that's sort of the point. Just about anyone who flies in the States ends up being able to tell their own horror story with the TSA, some funny, some very much not so funny. TSA agents have been accused of sexually harassing passengers during invasive screening procedures, including touching the genitals of children and forcing a woman to remove her nipple ring with a pair of pliers. Same-gender pat-downs are no guarantee against sexual molestation, and parents are finding it increasingly distasteful to have to chose between their families being digitally naked, irradiated, or physically groped. While I'm not a big fan of celebrity gossip, I also find it somewhat curious how many 'random' searches end up being on people like former Miss Americas, or the Khardashian sisters, or Donna d'Errico, former Baywatch actress and Playboy pin-up, who when she asked why she, rather than her husband or son, had been selected to go through the full-body scan was told by the male TSA agent at LAX airport, 'because you caught my eye.' She noticed that the agent who pulled her out of line for the scan then smirking and whispering with two other TSA agents. How professional.

The 'Terror Watch List' has more than a million names on it, many of them absurdly in error, such as the late Senator Ted Kennedy. Or Daniel Brown, a Marine Staff sergeant, who found himself on the no-fly list when returning to the States from serving in Iraq, still in full uniform. Or Robert Johnson, a former US Army lieutenant colonel who ran as a Democrat against Republican John McHugh. Or US Representative John Lewis (D-Ga), or Ozzie and Harriet actor David Nelson, or Jesselyn Radack, a former ethics advisor for the US DoJ, or even Nelson Mandela, of all people. Or, perhaps most absurdly of all, James Robinson, a commercial airline pilot mistakenly on the no-fly list.

As a result, in the past decade since the creation of the TSA, the public has increasingly become less safe than they were before, terrorists or no terrorists. Cornell University studies have shown that road fatalities have risen as a direct consequence of travellers preferring to drive long and tiring distances rather than risk unreasonable airport security. A 2007 study concluded this draconian airport security is costing the airline industry $1.1 billion a year as people are choosing not to fly if there are any other means available. TSA airport security is directly responsible for the decreasing numbers of tourists to the US, not just those who would come and visit the United States, but those - like myself - who quite deliberately book any necessary lay-overs in any other country than the States. Why fly via LAX, where I was kept standing for hours with fellow transit passengers flying from Heathrow to Auckland, in a sweltering corridor, without water, without seats, without being allowed to use the restroom, while TSA agents fingerprinted and photographed passengers who weren't even disembarking in the United States, when I can fly via Singapore instead, with an airport that caters to lay-over passengers with a swimming pool or a relaxing Chinese massage?

The TSA itself is quite aware the department and its security officers have become not only objects of ridicule, but despised and hated by the general public. A few do understand real security depends on the good will and cooperation of people being screened, and some progress is being made to counteract this 'security theatre' of the absurd.

The TSA is now working to replace all 241 offensive millimetre-wave body scanning machines currently in use at 40 US airports that digitally strip search passengers with pornographic precision with stick-figure androgenous representations of a generic human body still capable of detecting guns and knives, etc., by the end of 2012. It also probably doesn't help the reputation of body scanning machines that the German government recently announced they are stopping the use of the machines due to far too many false alarms, as high as 49%, caused by nervous sweaty armpits. The machines are not only intrusive, they're practically useless.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced US passengers will soon see future travel that doesn't require removing their shoes. 'We are moving towards an intelligence and risk-based approach to how we screen,' she said. Great - I can stop wearing flip-flops to the airport in winter, then.

But while that's a good start, it's hardly enough. Given the TSA's incredibly poor record for its handling of searches, its notorious lapses in security, and its complete failure to catch a single terrorist, this will be an uphill, if not impossible battle to win. While I'm not quite so gung-ho about abolishing the TSA outright, perhaps the department should scrap its current rulebook and start over from scratch, hopefully with a bit more common sense and civility applied to airline travel security.