‘Step Right up!’ Snake Oil for Sale

by Walter Brasch

The Tea Party, mutant spawn of the Republicans, held their spineless parents and the nation hostage during the debt ceiling crisis, and is now demanding an even greater ransom.

Flushed with what they mistakenly believe is success, they have launched an all-out assault upon the presidency. Their generals, fattened by Iowa corn and midway schmaltz, are Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain. Sarah Palin, hovering near the battlefields to soak up the media sunlight, much like a black hole absorbs all energy and light from nearby stars, is waiting to see how the war goes (and if she can write some intelligent sentences) before deciding to re-enter battle.

Bachmann is the winner of the strangest political non-election in the country, the Iowa Straw Poll. She won the race the old-fashioned way. She bought it.

To make sure that Iowans entered the Tents of Instant Gratification and, thus, cast their ballot the right way, the candidates, who paid $15,000-$31,000 to rent space at Iowa State, provided food, music, and carnival fun for the voters. Bachman had a petting zoo, and drew fans to a concert by country superstar Randy Travis. Cost of the banquet: $30 a ticket.

To assure there were enough votes, Bachmann’s campaign, like all other campaigns, paid the $30 admissions ticket. That would be $144,690 for 4,823 votes, plus several hundred thousand dollars in related campaign expenses. Related campaign expenses for the candidates included renting charter buses to bring voters from throughout Iowa to Ames.

But, Iowans aren’t stupid. Many wanted to see Randy Travis and eat the food of politics but didn’t plan to vote for Bachmann. About 6,000 persons took the “free” $30 tickets. Thus, she officially paid $180,000, $37.32 a vote; unofficially, with all expenses figured in, the cost could easily have been well over $200 a vote so she could be the winner and earn the title of Media Darlin’ of the Week.

The establishment media generally avoided Ron Paul, the second place winner, who “only” got 4,671 votes, 152 less than Bachmann, and 27.7 percent. Paul is a pariah in the Republican party, and something the media can’t figure out, because he actually has a core set of principles, which sometimes leads him to ally with liberals, but for different reasons.

Third place, with 13.6 percent of the vote and, according to numerous media pundits not charismatic enough to be a serious contender, went to Tim Pawlenty, who didn’t drink much of the tea and dropped out of the race after spending about $1 million in Iowa. Not dropping out were Tea Party favorites Rick Santorum (9.8 percent) and Herman Cain (8.6 percent), who lured voters into his tent with free Godfather’s Pizza. Mitt Romney, who had spent about $2 million in the 2007 Straw Poll, but skipped this year’s non-binding poll, finished behind Rick Perry, dripping tea with every statement he makes, entered the presidential race only after the Iowa Straw Poll, but did get 718 write-in votes for 4.3 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, Romney is still believed to be the front-runner.

Thus, going into the primary season, the Tea Party can arouse themselves with Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, Cain, and maybe Palin. Not identified with the Tea Party, but in its gravitational pull are Romney, Jon Huntsman, and whatever is left of Newt Gingrich’s chances.

The Tea Party began a few months after Barack Obama was elected president, with a stated purpose to reduce wild government spending. But its deep structure shows an amorphous bunch of white middle-class ultra-conservatives, aided by upper-class political consultants and media manipulators, who have developed the ability to sound impressive with only half-truths behind their rants and chants, and a zealous determination to keep President Obama out of a second term.

During the debt ceiling crisis, Tea Partiers refused to budge on a demand of not raising the debt ceiling, cutting numerous social and educational programs, and holding firm to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Everyone must cut back, especially during economic crises, they bleated. Austerity is their mantra.

But, based upon their extravagant lifestyle and the wild spending they did in Iowa, shouldn’t their mantra now be “hypocrisy”?

New Hampshire or Bus: Sarah’s No-Campaign Campaign Tour

Speeding along city streets, going from somewhere to somewhere else, was the Sarah Palin “One Nation I’m Not Running for Anything But Follow Me Anyhow” bus chase.

Following her were about two dozen reporters and photographers from the national news media, and now and then some local news teams, many of whom violated traffic laws in order to keep the Palin Convoy in sight.

The news media told others how much they were suffering. Sarah wouldn’t tell them where she was going. She didn’t issue press releases. She wouldn’t give them interviews when they wanted. The media had to call, text, and radio each other just to get information. They couldn’t even get proper bathroom breaks because they had to chase that danged bus and the two Sarah SUV escorts. They believed their lives were more like those of combat correspondents under heavy incoming fire, and not the celebrity-chasing paparazzi they had become.

What little information they got, they had to go to Facebook and Twitter, where Team Sarah posted nightly updates. And, oh yeah, if you have a few bucks, please contribute to Sarah PAC, which was funding the trip.

On the second day, 10-year-old Piper Palin had sarcastically told a photographer, “Thanks for ruining our vacation.” Of course, it wasn’t the media who “ruined” what Piper thought was a family vacation. Sarah Palin’s own website claimed the purpose of the tour was “part of our new campaign to educate and energize Americans about our nation’s founding principles, in order to promote the Fundamental Restoration of America.” To “promote” that education campaign, Piper’s mother commissioned a luxury bus, and wrapped it in a professionally-created design, complete with a Sarah Palin signature larger than anything John Hancock could have written. Since Mother Sarah always emerged from the bus wearing ready-for-prime-time campaign makeup and conservative “glad-to-meet-ya-but-I’m-not-really-running” conservative suits, it was questionable just whose vacation it was.

In Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day, Sarah put on a helmet, black leather jacket and, still wearing high heels, jumped onto the back of a Harley, and seized the spotlight from thousands of Rolling Thunder bikers who were in the capital to honor POWs and MIAs. Sarah was in the capital to honor Sarah.

In the nation’s capital, she wore a large cross. In New York City, the fundamentalist half-governor whose church believes that Jews will never get to heaven unless they are baptized as Christians, wore a Star of David.

At Fort McHenry, Mt. Vernon, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and several other historic sites on her six-day erratic trip up the eastern seaboard, she stopped for minutes here, minutes there, in an attention-deficit span of pseudo-patriotism, long enough to make sure the media saw her, that there was ample opportunity for photo-ops, and then moved on. Where? No one really knew. It was as freewheeling as her own political style.

At Gettysburg, she stayed long enough to take advantage of numerous photo-ops. In New York, the media breathlessly told us about Sarah and newly-incarnated birther Donald Trump having pizza in a restaurant on Times Square.

On I-90, near Worcester, Mass., her caravan rolled into a storm, just behind a tornado, not stopping for either their own safety or to help those affected by severe damage from the tornado.

In New Hampshire, where Mitt Romney was announcing his campaign for the presidency, Sarah managed to have her own show about five miles away, drawing the national media to her star power, and then claimed she didn’t mean to upstage Romney. It was just an accident, she said in the state where the nation’s first primary for the 2012 presidential election will be held.

At Ellis Island, she misinterpreted potential immigration law. In an interview with Fox News reporter Greta van Susteren, the only reporter allowed on the bus, Sarah mangled the truth about Social Security, the Obama stimulus plan, and the foreign aid package to Egypt.  

In Boston, she reinvented history and complained about “gotcha” journalism. You know, like the “gotcha” question Katie Couric asked in 2008 about what she read. This “gotcha” had come from a Boston reporter who had thrown an even easier puff ball-“What did you learn in Massachusetts and what did you take away from it?” Apparently, she didn’t learn much. Instead of spending enough time in Boston to learn about America’s revolution, she informed the nation that a bell-clanging Paul Revere went out to warn the British not to mess with America’s right to bear arms-or something to that effect. When historians politely disagreed with her curious interpretation of history, she steadfastly maintained she knew American history, and that everyone-including, apparently, Paul Revere’s own notes and letters- was wrong.

Some of the Sarah Zealots even tried to manipulate information in Wikipedia to parrot what Sarah believed was the reason for Paul Revere’s ride, thus giving revisionist history an entirely new dimension.

Although Sarah thought the media were into “gotcha journalism,” the truth is that the wily politician, who tiptoed into broadcast journalism after college, now assisted by a media-savvy campaign staff, managed to do everything right to manipulate the mass media to give her more coverage than a Puritan in a clothing factory.

Her handling of the media was the ultimate “gotcha.”

You betcha, Sarah.

[Walter Brasch, a journalist for more than 40 years, has reported on almost every presidential campaign since 1968. His latest book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, available at amazon.com]

Note from John:  I refuse to cover this moron any longer.  Unless she formally announces her candidacy for president this is the last mention of Sarah Palin here.

News & Notes June 6, 2011

I lost my cat Linus last night so I apologize for not getting back to blogging until now.  He was the inspiration for the cat mascot on the blog.  

Anthony Weiner owned up to texting lewd pictures of himself to young women.  So is Weiner-Gate finally over?

Meanwhile important stuff like Justice Clarence Thomas lying on his financial disclosure statements then lying yet again is lost, not to be found on CNN.

My friend Steve Crockett was profiled on OpEd News for his collegiate activist work.

What’s worse than getting something totally wrong like Paul Revere’s famous ride?  Denying you got it wrong when the entire nation knows you got it moronically wrong.  No silver for you!

The Bush tax cuts for the rich turn ten tomorrow.  They continue bankrupting us but Republicans refuse to repeal them.  In Pennsylvania here’s what they’ve meant:  average tax cut for the poorest 60% is $469 and for the richest 1% $65,480.

Allentown is laying off 265 teachers and Bethlehem is losing 56.  Why are we cutting teachers and not football coaches?

The nuclear plant in Limerick is having more difficulties.

Easton Mayor Sal Panto signed a bill recognizing same sex relationships. “It is my honor to sign this law in the same spot as the declaration of independence was read, hopefully the State legislature will pass this to give equal civil rights to everyone in Pennsylvania.”

Al Qaeda is urging its supporters to use gun shows in the U.S. to stock up on automatic weapons:  

America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?

PennEnvironment won a big case against GenOn with a $5 million settlement for polluting the Conemaugh River.

The Voter ID law which will disenfranchise thousands of Pennsylvanians should come up for a vote this week and the Pennsylvania Alliance of Retired Americans is urging for its defeat.  From their press release:

“The Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans strongly opposes House Bill 934, because it will disenfranchise Pennsylvania seniors, thereby compromising the legitimacy of the elections themselves.

I hope the Representatives and Senators who are not standing with us here today stop and think whether it’s worth denying so many seniors the right to vote, while creating difficult hurdles for many more, just to combat fraud that no one can prove is going on in the first place.  To seniors, this is an issue of respect – respect for the rights of our generation.  The Alliance for Retired Americans will make sure our members and all seniors know which representatives showed us respect, and which did not.”

Palin’s Domestic Policy Guru Caught Lying

Rebecca Mansour, Sarah Palin’s Domestic Policy Adviser was caught lying to the Daily Caller about Twitter direct messages she sent to a supporter trashing all sorts of people.  Her worst taunts were reserved for Bristol Palin referring to her as the black sheep of the family.  Imagine being the black sheep of that family?

Mansour serves as Palin’s domestic policy adviser and speechwriter. She is a gatekeeper, deciding who gets to see and talk to Palin, and who doesn’t. Mansour also maintains Palin’s online presence.

This comes after SarahPalinUSA was ridiculed for criticizing President Obama’s betrayal of our “Allys.”  I guess they don’t like criticism of banks?

Ben Smith of Politico says he was contacted by someone wishing to sell the DM’s last year but legitimate news outlets don’t pay sources so Politico declined.  The Daily Caller (Tucker Carlson) says they didn’t pay but who knows with that guy?  Maybe he needed some new bow ties.  

Mansour lied about sending the messages when contacted by the media outlet until they proved through forensic analysis the direct messages did indeed come from Twitter’s servers.  Then she finally fessed up knowing her lies had been disproved.  Somehow none of this surprises me one bit.

News & Notes February 10, 2011

Egypt in celebrating as President Hosni Mubarack is rumored to be stepping aside soon.  News reports say he has left Cairo for the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh.  Information is mostly rumors coming from Cairo.

Sarah Palin called Rick Santorum a knuckle dragging neanderthal on Sean Hannity’s show.  Well, not exactly, she said his wife could call him that.  Nothing Pennsylvanians haven’t been calling him for years.  This isn’t exactly a major news scoop for Fox.

Sen. John Kyl of Arizona announced he will retire from the Senate.  Does this allow another even more extremist member of the Arizona GOP to step up?  I remember the good old days when Arizona extremists were only Goldwaters.  These days he’d be tarred and feathered as a liberal.

Rep. Chris Lee resigned from Congress last evening three hours after Gawker published emails and a picture he sent a woman on Craigslist.  She advertised for dates and hooked a married Congressman.

I peruse the online editions of the state’s major newspapers each morning.  The Philadelphia Inquirer recently revamped its website making it impossible to read.  Now they are beginning to charge for that privilege.  I’m no longer reading The Inquirer.  I wonder how precipitously Philly.com’s visits have tumbled?  If the goal were to enhance revenues why make the online paper impossible to read?

The trial of former Judge Mark Ciavarella continues in Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre).  Testimony yesterday showed how millions in cash were laundered (then tracked by the feds) while the greedy Judges kept demanding more.  There was zero concern for the teens sentenced to juvenile prison for things that should have merited school detention.

Sen. Jane Orie’s trial in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) was delayed when two jurors told the Judge information they received might prejudice them in deliberations.  They were replaced by alternates.  Jane Orie is accused of using her State offices, staffs and resources to run her campaign and her sister Joan Orie Melvin’s campaign for Supreme Court Justice.  Justice Melvin has not yet been charged.

Update:  President Mubarack is stubbornly holding onto power but not, likely, for long.

Larry Medaglia struck first in the PA-11 special Senate election with a direct mail piece arriving in mailboxes today.  With the district now covered in Medaglia yard signs Judy Schwank is…where?

Equating Dueling and Political Terrorism

Sarah Palin finally descended from her lofty throne and released a statement four days after the shootings in Tuscon.  She compared the current level of political vitriol with the past equating it with dueling.  Let’s examine the similarities:

Duels always began with a challenge

Jared Loughren issued no such challenge

Dueling offered the challenger a choice of weapons

Loughren gave no such opportunity

Duels required both parties to be armed equally

The victims in Tuscon were unarmed

Loughren had a Glock 19, 31 bullets and two additional 15 bullet magazines

Duels had rules and etiquette

Loughren afforded no warnings, no chance for escape, no mercy

Duels generally left no one injured as the pistols were very inaccurate and each participant had but one bullet apiece

Loughren killed six, hit 18 and had 61 bullets to his victim’s none

Duels always afforded the challenger the opportunity to decline at the cost of his honor

Loughren allowed no one to decline and the cost to them was their lives.

Yes, I can see why Sarah Palin would equate one with the other in her warped mind.

I will exact a price to the Right Wing Hate Machine and its followers after this week:  until you accept full personal responsibility for your actions and behavior I will not allow any more condescending rhetoric from you about others accepting “personal responsibility.”  For anything.

Tucson Update

Thus far no one in the Right Wing Hate Machine has taken responsibility for their vitriol.  Sarah Palin’s staff is still claimin gthe gun sights on their graphic last year were surveyors marks.  This in spit of the fact Sarah Palin herself Tweeted after the election that 18 of their 20 “bullseyes” had been defeated.  So if they were bullseyes in November why are they surveyors marks now?  Because some lunatic took them literally and shot one of their targets.

Rep. Giffords remains in critical condition.  Her staffer Gabriel Zimmerman is dead, two other staffers wounded and Jared Loughner has been charged with five federal counts.  State charges for the victims who weren’t federal employees are coming we can assume.

The shooter bought the Glock two months ago even though everyone who knew him knew he was unbalanced.  Pima Community College suspended him after five disturbances on campus and fellow students complained they thought he’d come to campus with a gun and begin shooting.  He had three extended magazines and emptied the first magazine of twenty bullets.  Had three heroes not tackled and held him to the ground many more people would have been shot.  Giffords’ intern Daniel Hernandez, a gay man, held her head to stanch the bleeding and may have saved her life.  It was his fifth day on the job.

Police found numerous envelopes and letters left by the shooter according to court affidavits, spelling out his intention to assassinate the Congresswoman.  There is no doubt as to his target.  Three of the dead were in their seventies along with the 9 year old girl.  Christine Green was brought to the event by a neighbor because she had just been elected to her school’s student council.

This was an unspeakable tragedy and to those who say this isn’t the time for finger pointing or laying blame I say yes, it is.  We must hold those accountable who stoke these fires, incite this violence and enrage the public against us.  There must be accountability and there is no better time than when that happens.  Otherwise we are simply burying our heads in the sand until it happens again and we ask why?

Those who say they believe in personal responsibility must accept it.

The Aftermath

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords apparently made it through the night which is good news.  The bad is that she has suffered a tragic traumatic brain injury.  She is one of the lucky ones.  Six people have died including Christine Green, born on September 11, 2001 and the grandchild of former Phillies manager Dallas Green.  It’s interesting how something as far away as Arizona can hit home.

While the rhetoric of violence on the right wing escalated last year and major candidates such as Sharron Angle were encouraging their followers to resort to “Second Amendment remedies” they are refusing to take personal responsibility now that someone has.   If you’re unwilling to accept personal responsibility for your actions I never again want to hear your pathetic demands that poor people accept personal responsibility for your racism.

A vigil has sprung up outside the University Medical Center in Tuscon for the victims.  Included inthis video by Politico is a picture of Judge John C. Noll who was slain while simply saying hello to his friend the Congresswoman near his home.

Today we begin dealing with the aftermath of yesterday’s tragedy.  Police have released a picture of a second man whom they deem a “person of interest.”  It appears to be a still photo captured from a video surveillance camera.  The Sheriff reported last evening that the alleged gunman is refusing to answer questions after invoking his rights.  I suppose he’s just unbalanced and not crazy.  You couldn’t convince me he was insane when he did this if he knew enough to lawyer up.  According to an eyewitness who helped pin the shooter the gunman had two additional extended magazines which he intended to use.  CNN did this interview.  

Where do we go from here?  What is the future of this nation post Tuscon?  Do we continue to embrace violence as a solution or begin serious discussions about guns, unbalanced people and those who intentionally incite them to violence?  

Does God send natural disasters as punishment?

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Refudiate Sarah

Sarah Palin spent her day today scrubbing her websites of her violent rhetoric inciting people like Jared Loughner to violence.  Consciousness of guilt?  Unfortunately for Sarah her gun sights on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords remain, unscrubbed by all those who saved her graphics and statements.

As Keith Olbermann said tonight on a special comment it is time to repudiate, or, as Palin says, refudiate, all those who incite violence.  It isn’t only Palin, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly or others on radio and television we saw it here in Pennsylvania last year.  Remember the Tea Party extremists who openly carried weapons to Congressional and Senate events?  Remember the group in Lancaster which invited candidates to a shooting range to actually target President Obama and other liberals?

I have been railing about this since my own life was threatened by one of these unbalanced extremists on March 1st.  Ron Renninger, aka Ace of Sweeps” left a message on my voice mail saying he was going to “put a bullet in my head.”  Because I have a “Pennsylvania Progressive” bumper sticker on my car I’m routinely run off the road by other sick people, usually small businessmen in pick up trucks, given the finger and victimized by overly aggressive tactics.  Some in the media called for anyone with Obama bumper stickers to be “targeted.”

Today’s targeting of a Member of Congress, the killing of six people including federal Judge John C. Noll and a 9 year old child should shock America to its senses and have all of us vehemently reject such rhetoric.  Glenn Beck is the worst and Fox News should be taken off the air for supporting this man and his unhinged verbiage.   Should they not it is imperative on each of us as citizens to boycott any advertiser on that network, any entity which supports and funds such activity wherever it exists.

Killing your political enemies or intentionally inciting (and, yes, I believe it is intentional) others to do so has no place in a civilized society.  Perhaps we have ceased being one but it is imperative we take our country back from those who would take us to the depths of insanity.  The Sheriff clearly and openly blamed those on hate radio and television and said this:

“But again I’d just like to say that when you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain people’s mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I believe has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

Instead of retreating from their extreme views many on the right are claiming someone using numerous fringe right wing code phrases is actually a leftist and decrying Sheriff Dupnik for making the statement above.  Of course we know what motivated this young man.  The Congresswoman was his target, he walked up to her outside the Safeway and shot her in the head.  Before doing so he posted a message online saying “don’t hate me” and “I’m not a terrorist.”  Of course he is.  This is a clear cut case of American domestic terrorism just as it was when another deranged extremist flew his plane into an IRS building last year.

There are consequences for actions and words and it is time conservatives accepted personal responsibility for theirs.  Should they refuse then all of us should refudiate them and their networks.

News & Notes November 18, 2010

I needed a bit of a hiatus there after an intense fall.  I’m still waiting for my new desktop (fried by a lightning strike in September) so I’m muddling through on the laptop.  I wish Erie was faster about paying claims!

Nancy Pelosi survived a threat from Blue Dog Dems including Jason Altmire yesterday to win her post as Minority Leader 135-40.  This is why the Blue Dogs were decimated in the election:  they aren’t actual Democrats.

There’s tons of buzz about Dwight Evans’ fall from power in Harrisburg.  His arrogance, hubris and obstructionism on key bills hammered home his ruthless use of his power and that was his downfall.  The former Democratic leadership team is now gone and no one is crying the blues.  Many real, actual reformers lost their seats because that team blocked all their efforts at reform and real progress for Pennsylvania.  The approval of those libraries for Murtha and Specter cost them the majority because they refused to stand up to the Governor.  The GOP hammered away relentlessly at that pork.  He deserved to be replaced.

Fox News is targeting George Soros because he finally contributed money to Media Matters.  Fox has accused him of doing so for years untruthfully and now is attempting to make him into the devil.  Glenn Beck has accused the Jewish survivor of WWII of helping send Jews to the death camps.  Smears don’t come any lower than this but then, this is Glenn Beck.

As more and more Americans fall into poverty the numbers of them having trouble feeding themselves is climbing alarmingly.  Now imagine if Congress refuses to extend unemployment past Nov. 30th?  Since they ran against the deficit and unemployment benefits they’re between a rock and a hard place.  Knocking these people off the rolls and onto welfare doesn’t save much and hurts the economy.  The ripple effect of government spending stimulates economic activity, every $1 results in $1.42 in economic activity.  This means more small businesses will see lower revenues.

I’m astounded at the ignorance and stupidity of those who seek to lead this country.  If you don’t know basic economics go take a course.

Medicare Part D premiums are rising 20-40% next year according to this article in today’s PG.  Regular health care costs also continue their spectacular increases.  One of my primary objections to HCR was the lack of cost containment provisions and we’re witnessing that at the end of the year.  

A New Hampshire school board member and Vietnam veteran tried indoctrinating a class of children by claiming progressivism and liberalism are evil companions of socialism and communism.  Such brainwashing by the president of a school board is outrageous.  Didn’t Republicans raise a furious clamor when Obama made just a motivational speech to kids last year that was completely apolitical?  The constant progression of their own sins onto the opposition makes one wonder if Republicans are mentally ill.

Sarah Palin thinks she can beat Obama in 2012.  Of course she thinks she’s intelligent, can see Russia from her porch and that abstinence is good for other people but not her own family too.  This woman is delusional.  Make my day, run Sarah run.

Charlie Rangel gets his punishment meted out by the House of Representatives today.  The Congressman broke basic rules and should be punished.  I rail against Republicans who do these things so justice needs to be equal.  He left his trial claiming he hadn’t had time to get a lawyer.  How many months does that require Charlie?  I love the guy but he did wrong.

Pennsylvania’s Adult Basic is about to expire.  This throws more people on to the rolls of the uninsured, that total is currently 59 million and still growing.

Felon Bob Asher is co Chair of Tom Corporate’s inaugural committee.  He’s one of the AG’s top funders.  The other co-chair is from the gas drilling industry.  A sneak peek at the next four years?  I’ll, at least, have lots of corruption on which to report.

The media is all atwitter about the new TSA pat downs.  I won’t mind them if I can choose my molester, I want a cute one.