Bachmann, Arab Spring, O’Reilly, Solyndra, and $16 Muffins.







Couple of things I’ve noticed in an unusually TV-and-reading-filled week, that many people seem not to have noticed:

Since fringe candidate and Geoff Willis crush Michele Bachmann lost her adult supervision a month or so ago, she’s been right back to regularly spouting whatever wild and wacky things pop into her head or she hears from some stranger.  I don’t generally write about her as she’s too easy of a target and a distraction from the real threats who could conceivably be our next President.

But the other day Martin Bashir (my new favorite guy on MSNBC, but you have to catch him at noon) played a recent clip of Michele that left him utterly flummoxed:  She was BLAMING the “Arab Spring” (the popular rebellions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya) on President Obama, as if it were a bad thing.   And the way she said it – it was like she just took for granted her audience KNEW the Arab Spring was bad.  Bashir really didn’t know what to say.  “Does she even know what the Arab Spring is?,” he puzzled in his sophisticated accent.  “What does this lady think she’s talking about?”  (around 2-minute mark)

And I thought – hey, I know something Martin doesn’t – she’s actually been working up toward this.  As I already mentioned in comments here recently, she perplexed the audience at the California Republican Convention a couple weeks ago with the line, “We saw President Mubarak fall while President Obama sat on his hands.”

Yes, we did see that.  And I HAD thought that at least 90% of us cheered the fall of that dictator, cautiously but hopefully welcomed the birth of Egyptian democracy and freedom, and (at least most of us) thought Obama handled it just right by standing back and letting events take their course.

Bachmann of course is a very simplistic, Manichaen thinker, who maybe just assumes anything “Arab” is bad, unless it’s a dictator who’s a dependable US ally who’s sworn to not cross Israel.  She also seems, even though she’s in the US Congress and on the national stage running for President, to inhabit a little bubble where folks think just like her – otherwise why would she just assume her audiences all believe Arab democracy is bad and should be blamed on someone?

Or – help me out here, OJ Republicans – is that view more prevalent on the right than most of us normal people thought?  And would it be based on a belief that Arabs and Muslims don’t deserve democracy and freedom, or is it just simply needing to condemn anything President Obama is involved in?


And then Jon Stewart had loofah-crazed blowhard Bill O’Reilly on, to defend his recent ravings that if President Obama raised his taxes even five percent, he would be forced to retire from television (even though, of course, he paid a lot higher rates under President Clinton and did just fine.)  This time around, he said that he would be happy to pay a little more in taxes, if it just weren’t for two things, Solyndra and Sixteen-Dollar Muffins (the two latest blown-out-of-proportion rightwing examples of government waste.)

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Jon knew all about the Solyndra debacle, having already done a presentation on it (entitled “Fox News – the erection you are now experiencing will last more than four hours.“)  That was an ill-advised investment of a half-billion government dollars in a corrupt and inept solar panel manufacturer – still just a small percentage of the Obama administration’s vital and job-creating green energy investments.

But Jon drew a blank when Bill brought up the “sixteen-dollar muffins.”  Which brings up the possibility YOU haven’t heard of that faux-scandal either, especially since neither Geoff Willis nor Larry Gilbert have blogged about it here.  Which brings up a philosophical question akin to the tree-falling-in-the-forest conundrum – if there is a rightwing faux-scandal and Geoff and Larry don’t blog about it here, does it actually exist for Orange Juice readers?  And my answer is yes – because you will be hearing about “sixteen-dollar muffins” from your co-workers and relatives, and you’ll need to know how to explain how faux the scandal is, and exactly HOW it is faux.

Sixteen Dollar Muffins?

Of course not.  Think Progress has the story:

A Justice Department inspector general audit released last week has generated a lot of buzz on Capitol Hill over the suggestion that the agency has been spending too much on food at taxpayer-funded conferences. Some have interpreted the report to mean that DoJ spent as much as $16 per muffin at one event — which is pure fiction.

But to hear Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) tell the tale, this is the worst example of extravagant “elitist” spending in government since Marie Antoinette declared, “Let them eat cake!” The Iowa conservative even said yesterday that heads should roll over the incident:

Sen. Chuck Grassley said Thursday unless “heads roll” at the Department of Justice following revelations of extravagant spending on conferences that included $16 muffins, the scandal will not change the way government agencies use taxpayer money.

The Iowa Republican told CNN’s “American Morning” that President Barack Obama should ax the people responsible for the excessive spending on food and beverages at the department’s conferences uncovered by an audit earlier this week.

Unless people are fired, and heads roll, you never get changes made,” Grassley said.

As Kevin Drum at Mother Jones explained yesterday, the $16 muffin charge is a myth. After plowing through the invoice for the event it’s obvious that “someone quite carefully calculated the amount they were allowed to spend and then gave the hotel a budget. The hotel agreed, but for some reason decided to divide up the charges into just a few categories instead of writing a detailed invoice for every single piece of food they provided.” As Drum notes, this sort of exchange happens all the time, and makes it seem on paper like the DoJ spent $16 per item. But “did DOJ really pay $16 for muffins? Of course not.”

Nevertheless, the Obama administration has already responded quickly to allegations of waste by ordering that agencies review spending at taxpayer-funded conferences. According to Politico, Vice President Joe Biden said a deputy secretary or equivalent chief operating officer at each agency will have to approve conference-related expenses during the review period.

But none of that is likely to satisfy Grassley, who seems determined to keep the $16 muffin myth alive because it’s a catchy, if completely false, story.

To which I would just add a couple of things – we, Grassley, and FOX only know about this POSSIBLY slight overspending because of the Obama administration’s own Inspector General report, which is our government doing what it’s supposed to do to combat its own natural tendency to overspend.  And rich selfish people like Bill O’Reilly who don’t want to pay any more taxes, whether out of simple greed, the ideological desire to starve the government of resources, or more likely both, will ALWAYS be able to find or manufacture some phony excuse for their stinginess, be it Solyndra, sixteen-dollar muffins, or the next tempest in a teapot.  Don’t fall for their misdirections – it is time to raise their taxes.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.