Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Please sir, can I have some more?

Pecunia non olet said Vaspasian, or so they say. Money doesn't stink, or so you'd think looking at the way Florida governor Rick Scott laps it up like a cat with spilt milk. Showing up Monday at a  Boca Raton, Florida home of GEO Group CEO George Zoley for his $10,000 a plate fundraiser ( another $3K if you want to come to the reception) would suggest that Scott can't  smell dirty money, as Zoley's company is in the business of running private prisons -- some say the worst in the country -- that squeeze the life and health out of prisoners as well as exposing the guards to unnecessary danger.

Of course it may be that Scott smells it all too well and, like a culture, is attracted to the smell of graft and corruption and human suffering. You'll recall his involvement with the largest Medicare fraud ever exposed. You may not recall that Zoley gave Mr. Scott $20,000 to add to the $800,000 of taxpayer money to pimp up the governor's mansion. Yes, it was a drop in the bucket compared to the great flood of lobbyist money soaked up by the Governor, but Scott is not one to forget his obligations to contributors.

No money doesn't care who owns it and it doesn't stink even though the people and deeds connected to it may reek. The dollars saved by understaffing prisons and serving substandard, sometimes maggot infested food to prisoners adult and juvenile affirm his credentials with his party and particularly because so many of the inmates rotting and starving and being beaten in GEO prisons are immigrants. Last year a group of protesters  chained themselves to the doors of the GEO Group corporate headquarters in Palm Beach in protest over  GEO's "pivotal role in promoting discriminatory laws that target people of color,
immigrants, youth, transgender individuals, and the poor."   There have been hunger strikes.  There have been investigations looking into accusations that inmates were being served rotten food and suffering from food poisoning at the Broward  County, Florida facility. There were also allegations of sexual assault among detainees and reports of several suicide attempts says the Broward/Palm Beach NewTimes blog.  Did I mention that Scott is a Republican?

But we can't accuse old snake eyes of total blindness to appearances.  After all Zoley was a second choice after it became known that the original host, real estate mogul James Batmasian, was convicted of tax evasion in 2008. Batmasian, who spent eight months in federal prison and completed a two-year supervised release program, also had his legal license suspended in Florida. That stinks, even if his money doesn't.   It stinks almost as much as his rather dishonest and scurrilous accusations made against his likely opponent, Charley Crist, but to his supporters it doesn't matter any more than facts do. Rick Scott saved us money by abusing prisoners and a penny saved is a penny you can spend on yourself.  And besides, prisoners can't vote.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Who fired that shot?

Another Malaysian plane goes down, but this time we know why. We don't know who, because Putin denies it, the Russian separatists say it wasn't them and the Ukrainian government says it was. All of them are wrong however and we can be sure our friends the Republicans will soon let us know that this crisis, like all crises can be charged off to Barack H. Obama, the Kenyan born, Madrassa educated, communist Muslim jihadist demon.

What did you think? After all he didn't invade and his sanctions were either too little or too much and that's impeachable. Just as George Bush's decision to allow minor immigrants to have a hearing before deportation was Obama's fault -- just like The Republicans refusal to beef up security at the Benghazi embassy was Obama's fault and the deplorable conditions in Central America have never had anything to do with any Republican administration or policy.

Isn't it amusing -- or perhaps disgusting, but we can be sure that our Republican Congressional hostage takers will take precious time out from doing nothing but Obamabashing to bash Obama, but hey -- at least we'll know whose' fault it is.

Monday, July 14, 2014

What a piece of work is Man

Lovely meal, nice restaurant, best company, but the people at the next table were telling each other just what the Universe thought about this or that and how the Universe had solved some problem one of them had had. You don't get this at the Taco truck or the Wendy's drive through.

Perhaps they were Northerners.  The locals would simply have substituted the word God with no embarrassment, or perhaps they were the last holdouts of Deism, the folks who seek God in nature and not in churches or scriptures.  Who knows? But I hear this a lot.  I'm even wondering whether our practically  infinite universe is large enough to contain an ego of the size required to believe it had such significance in comparison to all there is or was or ever will be.  I'm guessing none of them were astronomers or astrophysicists or even of sufficient awareness to question the idea that something of the nature of nature itself was sentient or of  good intentions toward men -- men of good will or otherwise.

But say for the purposes of cynical condemnation, that the universe was a brain that somehow coalesced from a primal particle of infinite energy and infinitesimal size.  What can be a brain like that be composed of? Given the speed of light, and make no mistake, the universe does give us the speed of light -- given an all-there-is, the extremities of which can never, ever be reached in an infinite amount of time,  the allegedly sentient universe isn't old enough to have noticed us yet and never could be, even if somehow it were interested in our dining pleasure or our marital problems.  That which we can see of the universe is 30 billion light years across, a combination of  absolutely nothing and absolutely everything: violent on an unimaginable scale, both random and predictable and driven by principles we don't fully understand - but it can suggest to Shirley that she break up with Dylan or Cody or that I buy a new car. A sentient universe must need be speechless.

What a piece of work is man -- what quasi-demonic deity could match us for arrogance, for self-importance? 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ecce Simiae

Behold the Ape

One of the things I find difficult to discuss with fellow Liberals is the question of intelligence and its heritability.  That observable differences in cognitive function may be no more than learned behavior, or a the most a product of childhood experience, seems to be one of the credos that today's Liberal must share at the risk of losing the label.  Of course there is evidence to show that childhood deprivation of several kinds does affect the way one performs on IQ tests and perhaps in the experiences of life, but looking at people who are incontrovertibly brilliant it's hard to select parenting skills as the cause without looking silly.  The result is often that  people who have achieved great breakthroughs, often incomprehensible to the rest of us: people with great powers to analyze, calculate and create have their accomplishments explained by diligence or the willingness to work. That is something to which we can all aspire and fits into our cultural ethic

I heard in a movie trailer yesterday, that old and quite untrue saw "we only use 10% of our brains" which is patently untrue but  survives by offering hope that, like J.N. Barrie's Wendy Darling, we too can aspire to great ability if we only try hard and truly believe. No matter how hard I try, I still cannot follow Einstein's math much less develop the ability to have worked it out myself.

But to preserve the ego: to preserve the hope of a possibility that we're not second or third rate, we analogize with other achievements.  After all me can train to run farther or faster, to lift greater weights, to play sports better. We only have to use that latent 90%, to buy the "Baby Einstein" CD's and never mind the lack of evidence for success.  We can decide that specific talents are not part of some greater measure of mental ability, and some remarkable ability to calculate or to write music might just be latent in all of us if we try harder. We might decide to see some physical ability as a compensatory type of intelligence to offset our other intellectual lacks and in fact that's a component or the " intelligence is learned behavior" school of Liberal thought.  How brilliant must a Gibbon be, a squirrel, a bird!

But as I said, one risks ostracism by the trustees of conventional enlightenment by discussing, even in jest, such shibboleths as the genetic basis of intelligence, of racial features or even physical stature. What I'm saying is that by many measures, we Liberals are not the opposite of conservatives but just another variant. We too believe what is comfortable and what makes others comfortable with us and what is very uncomfortable to all good people is racism. I've heard it said many times that we cannot research certain things lest we play into the hands of racists or sexists or eugenicists and other miscreants. It's so much like that refrain from so many 20th century horror films: "there are things men were not meant to know."

And so we will ascribe that bell curve to other things. We will question, and perhaps rightly, the ability to test intelligence accurately, writing off vast differences in number crunching ability or short term memory or pattern recognition to cultural things, even when culture has little to do with those tests.  We talk about 5% differences and ignore the 100% differences that can hardly be written off so easily and  not only because we aspire to undeserved greatness, but because we're afraid others will misuse the data.

So it's interesting to see how we very conservative Liberals will see peer reviewed studies like the one in Current Biology that arrives at these conclusions:

•Individual differences in chimpanzee cognitive performance are heritable
•Cognitive traits found to be heritable show significant genetic correlations
•Sex and rearing history do not significantly influence cognitive performance

Will we decide that a biological basis for intelligence only pertains to modern Humans and not our immediate or more distant ancestors?  Perhaps it will be decided that our ancestors learned to be sapient the way we learned to lose out body hair and gain larger brains.  If not, we're going to have to learn to stop hiding and to address the real problems, the cultural and social and ethical problems of how we treat other people directly. We're gong to have to learn to separate all sorts of human variation from estimations of human worth, rights and dignity.  That's far harder to do than to wear a blindfold and demand that others do as well.

My guess is that the "no scientific basis" will remain a strong political force despite any degree of  sabotage by science because truly, there is no conservative more tenacious than a Liberal.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Ramadan Kareem

"I didn't want to wish you Ramadan Kareem on the air. . ." said Jake Tapper just now on CNN, thinking his mike was off.  He had just interviewed some lawyers irate at being under surveillance without any reason save for their being Muslim.

His mike was on and I wonder -- just why was he unwilling?  Is there a war on Ramadan?

The Robot that loved me

It's about 2 O'Clock in the afternoon as I write.  That's a bit late for Carmen's first call of the day. But I know she's faithful and that she will always call.  After all I provide her a phone number to call at any time without asking. Once she called at 2:30 AM.

 Carmen from Cardholder Services calls me on average twice a day, seven days a week. Sometimes it's once sometimes three times, but she has rarely missed  a day in these last two years.  It's no secret I'm avoiding her but as a robot she never seems to catch on, to tire, to take the hint.  She's a robot after all.  Until this year I would, if my speaking caller ID announced her, I would simply ignore the call, because pressing 3 as she sweetly but falsely told me I could do if I wished to be removed from the victim list, proved to be useless.  After a fruitless, frustrating year of this, I began to lose hope. Carmen has a false heart.

But more recently, as the ability of  the government to monitor every call everywhere has grown beyond our old fears, the ability of the government to care has languished.  The ability of  felons, scammers, con artists and flim flam  fraudsters to hide behind fake caller ID data has increased dramatically despite the "tough" laws against it. Equally "tough" are the laws against robot calling, calling people on the Federal and State do-not-call lists, against fraudulent caller IDs and refusing to remove or stop calling one's number upon request. I suspect that when "tough" laws are promised or called for, there is no intention of doing anything or at least no consideration of the possibility much less any thought put into the specifics.  Tough is the most we're going to get and as far as I know, those complaint forms I've filled out and sent to the FCC and Federal Trade Commission have evaporated.  Even Big Brother has no intention of interfering with the "right" of people to ring bells in my house 24/7 and attempt to get my credit card and social security numbers for unlawful purposes.

 I frequently find Carmen disguising herself as a local caller.  Last night she came to me as DirecTV, a company I do subscribe to, and only now she was Consumer SVCS calling from an unlisted number in Orlando. Call me sentimental, but I called back and for the first time, didn't get the not-a-working-number message, but one politely offering to remove me within 48 hours. I've got a hundred bucks with a snarky expression on its face saying they won't. Sorry Carmen, but this isn't my first affair.

The funny thing, of course, is that I have no credit card debt nor any reason to. I really don't care about rates on loans I don't have or intend to have.  Some people certainly do and some people do offer to intercede on your behalf, but they can't do anything you can't do by yourself with no cost.  But ask yourself if  anyone who thinks you're stupid enough to give out sensitive information to not only a stranger; but a stranger breaking a number of laws and operating under disguise can be anything but a crook.

Gone are the days when I can eat breakfast, lunch or dinner without being interrupted. These are times when every drowsy afternoon reverie or nap, every favorite tune on my iPod, program on my TV -- every intimate moment, any dip in the pool or walk in the garden can and will be interrupted by crooks and liars as well as ordinary salesmen and politicians and questionable charities and all at intervals close enough to random to drive you insane and rob you of all the gold in your golden years.

Now if someone came to my door 6 times a day and rang the bell and despite my rejection came back again and again wearing different disguises, you could call the police, you could get a restraining order.  Hell, in Florida you stand a chance of shooting him and getting away with it, but Carmen is a fixture in my life I can't get protection from. Her right to attempt to defraud me, to get me out of the shower, off a ladder, from under the car or down from a tree to make me run inside to pick up the phone may not be infringed and the government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations shall not be bothered to care. the phone service I pay for gives me no exclusivity as to using it and no choice but to put up with it.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

Move toward the light

Yes, it's easy to look on the dark side of the recent Supreme Court decisions allowing corporations to claim religious convictions and attendant relief from legal obligations. One can suspect that it's part of a progression toward full citizenship and voting rights for paper entities and perhaps even a superior status to the individual. If Subaru can claim that it builds cars with love, and a retail store chain to have religious scruples, then of course a corporation must be not only fully human in its own right, but an American citizen. More than an American citizen: a citizen not bound by the results of free elections to which we living breathing citizens are obliged to acquiesce.

Can't we see a bright side?  Perhaps now that a paper and ink 'person' can avoid obligations for religious reasons, a flesh and blood person can be forgiven for not reciting what constitutes a religious oath every morning and some evenings.  If a corporate store owner can refuse to provide insurance to pay for blood transfusions or vaccinations or indeed medical care of any kind if it files an affidavit stating such things to be a grave moral wrong, how then do I not have the right to a line item veto over my tax obligation?  There's a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel and it's the light of anarchy. Libertarians rejoice, we don't have to do anything we don't want to do.

It's not that the courts haven't made exceptions for individual moral and religious convictions in our history. Churches and Synagogues were allowed to use sacramental wine during Prohibition and conscience was allowed as an exemption from the draft, so long as one could document membership in an appropriate group. We have long given preference to group-think over individual conviction and the sun shines on little that is new.

Cynicism aside, do not the three recent decisions suggest that the problem hinges on the fact that we expect employers to pay directly for benefits to employees rather than to do as we do with Medicare: take it out of their paychecks?  Were we to pay for health care out of general revenue dissidents would have to claim the right to set their own tax obligations outside of  Democratic processes, making the shortcomings of  radical Libertarianism somewhat more apparent.  A single payer system would not overly burden certain employers and would not punish those out of work.  It would make organized sexual perversion less able to persist by calling itself Christianity while stepping on our lives.  It's time.

Friday, July 04, 2014

The day we celebrate

Of course the paper this morning contained the usual happy crap about celebrating FREEDOM as though we had either more of it or a better kind than Canada or most of Europe who have embraced the principles of Democracy and the rights of Man we seem to reject every Sunday as we yearn for the Divine right of Government.  What the day is about is political independence and independence from a government that denied us the right to Parliamentary representation it was legally obligated to provide while requiring us to identify the King's right to be king with a state church. It was about our right to fair representation as citizens, as equal participants in government regardless of wealth and importance and heredity and not about a tea tax.

As you watch the sound and fury of the fireworks, remember that the people selling themselves as patriots, the people talking about freedom in saccharine tones, really mean control by a powerful aristocracy allied with a narrow, sectarian interpretation of a certain religion.

"Blessed is the nation whose god is the Lord"  begins the full page full color newspaper insert payed for by the Hobby Lobby. It leaves off the next stanza: "the people he chose for his inheritance" which of course in that context means the Jews. It also mistranslates אשר־יהוה,  asher-Yaveh as the lord so those who think 'Jesus is Lord' will think it means them. The arrogance and the dishonesty would be amusing if the intent were not so insidious, because Our friends at Hobby Lobby, glowing like the face of Moses in their victory over secular law, have asserted their commitment to and aspiration toward a government Dei Gratia.  They assert their version of the Bible as the best source of normative morality.

The flag-bedecked page is packed with references to Supreme Court decisions from the 1830's supporting the public schools as the place to pray and teach Christianity and out-of-context quotes from the very anti-religious founding fathers like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson about the Christian Bible being the basis of all true morality. (No mention of course of the Bible backed, God tolerated institutions of wife beating and slavery and rape and genocide and banishment of non-Jewish people from holy land.)

No religion is about freedom, they are all about orthodoxy and uniformity of belief to the exclusion of other ideas and practices.  Freedom of worship is not freedom to enforce religious orthodoxy or religious law on others. No religion is about free choice, Democracy or the inherent rights of man.  No one in America has claimed the right to dictate your thoughts about divinity but religious organizations. Your prayers, your right to congregate and worship are guaranteed against the influence of  the Hobby Lobby and our constitution forbids our government to do what they insist is the right thing to do:  Establish and enforce  some form of Christian doctrine as the law of the land. If this be freedom, then freedom is slavery and the American Revolution against a divinely inspired Christian king we pretend to celebrate today was not only fought in vain, but was blasphemy and an unholy act.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The worst generation

A plurality of Americans seem to think Obama is the worst president since World War II.  I suspect a similar plurality couldn't tell you the combatants in that war or name the presidents we've had, during or since, but according to a Quinnipiac poll he's the worst and we'd have been better off with Romney.

The horror.

Yes, he has no leadership qualities because the Republicans have had a stranglehold on the Government and have effectively opposed every appointment, ever action and have mobilized the worlds largest and most effective lie machine in human history to undo and to demonize what little  he was able to accomplish.

The collapse of Iraq is Obama's fault, the civil war in Syria happened because of Barack Obama, because he either he did or did not intervene and never mind that the Republicans threatened and attempted to impeach him for both courses. Are we the most uninformed, the most misinformed, the most ignorant crop of Americans since WWII?  Res ipsa loquitur.  We certainly are and of all the civilized, educated countries we're the only one still serious about believing iron age superstition and forcing others to believe it. Huge numbers of Americans believe that Obama started the recession that began in 2001.  No one seems to remember the nearly 1000 documented lies that fomented the disastrous 2 billion dollar attack on Iraq or the effect of  paying for it with tax cuts and no-bid contracts for friends of the Administration.  No, Obama is the worst because the Republicans paid to make it so, because the Republicans packed the Supreme Court with incompetent religious fanatics and invade our homes and our consciousness with all day and all night slander, fabrications and distortions.

The horror is that we brought this on ourselves and the truth is that we are the worst Americans since WWII with a contempt for justice and a contempt for the truth and we will hang on to our prejudice and superstition and delusion and greed like a drowning man clutching an anchor.  The horror is that our system of government depends on a kind of citizen we're reduced to a minority and the ability of the insurgents to incapacitate the reasonable, the educated and well balanced increases every day.  The very technology we once thought would spread enlightenment has spread lies and lies so palatible  that  we gobble them up like a starving dog gobbling shit.  It's over. We failed. It's our fault and the only desperate hope I cling to is that when America fails it doesn't take the world with it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Say, how many worms are in that can?

Americans like words like Freedom and Liberty and perhaps because those ideas scare us so much. We are terrified of coercion by a government we all choose but we love to coerce those who disagree with us and deny them the right to choose.  We certainly are rarely in agreement as to what it means to be a free country and I might dare to say that question is still central to political argument today.  How do we define freedom?

  • " It's a free country and I can do what I want." 
  • " It's a free country and I don't have to do anything I don't want to do."

Some would equate those statements, others would point out that the first is true within limits and the second isnot, but the idea that freedom carries no obligation and indeed that in a free country it never should seems common amongst extremists.  Unfortunately extremists have a stranglehold on the Supreme Court and perhaps on Congress.  The recent decision regarding the ACA mandate that employers provide insurance coverage for contraception shows that the court sides with the second example and that when it comes to the concept of  freedom of religion and perhaps freedom of speech, personal beliefs convey personal privilege, but because this is such a limited ruling, the inherent hypocrisy becomes apparent.

If  I believe interfering with the implantation of a fertilized egg is murder, it's because of a religious interpretation of murder other people do not share and an interpretation of humanity and human rights that borders on the ludicrous. Citing a definition of freedom I do not believe the Constitution shares, the God Squad on the court allows me to opt out of  having my corporation pay for insurance that might pay for a "morning after" medication and perhaps any form of contraception. That court and indeed all courts do not provide immunity for other religious or other personal opinions and specifically not to opt our of paying for wars and executions and that is proof that one specific belief is being given special rights and others are not.  This violates the constitutional prohibition against establishment.

How will we see yesterday's ruling when other religious groups decide they don't want indirect participation in executing prisoners, bombing foreign countries and a host of other activities?  Will the court have to say this opinion is privileged and that one is not?  Haven't they just done that?  Does an aversion to contraception become an excuse to opt out of  an obligation only if  it's tied to some organized faith or is a personal dislike sufficient?  That question was answered during the years we had the draft.  It was damned hard to establish personal aversion to war without showing long term affiliation with a pacifist religion and not just a pacifist philosophy.

There can be little doubt that our government is in the business of establishing religious belief and assigning special privileges, special rights to members thereof.  There isn't a damned thing we can do seeing that the independence we make a fuss about every July was so limited.  We severed ties with the United Kingdom but not with Christianity as a force that legitimizes government and those who demand and assert the "Christian Nation"  idea are no more patriots or advocates for freedom than the Hessian troops George II hired to kill our revolutionary patriots.

It will be very hard to cite this decision as limited to the case that prompted it, and there are so many worms in that can that everyone will be able to fish for whatever special dispensation from any obligation he dislikes and our reputation for sanity, if we ever had one, won't need any bit of lead to make it sink to the bottom.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Not worth saving

Does anyone really still think the USA is a viable country?  Can I avoid calling such a person a delusional fool?  Have we been facilitating a Republican sabotage of our government while obsessing about sniffing out the last racist, wasting so much attention on gay marriage and school shootings, defending against every bogus scandal to come out of the Foxhole that we might as well just hand them the keys and move to Canada?  Show me otherwise!

With the Republicans calling the ultimate failure of  the Neocon Crusade in Iraq "Obama's greatest blunder" and demanding a "game plan" right now, this minute --  with the Supreme Court confirming that Congress is in session if the Republicans say so even if it is not in session and no one is there and so they can impeach the president for making a recess appointment, I think it's time to realize that we've lost, that we're being attacked on so many fronts that the current Iraqi administration has a better chance of survival than the United States government has of  representing its people. No Democratic Party president can perform his job, nothing can get past the Republican Party in the Senate and Republican plants on the Supreme Court are effective in making sure the Republican Corporatist/Christianist agenda has a clear path.

I'm tired of complaining, I'm tired of the self righteous and grossly ineffective opposition with their thousand petty ideologies, their straw men and shibboleths and yes, their lies and delusions.

Maybe it's time to get the hell out now. Now before I have to hear some other Republican howler use the world 'freedom' and I have to do something irresponsible.  Stick it up your arse, America.  I'm done with you.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Da Skins

Redskins - that's what we call the tourists with their New Jersey complexions who come down here in the Winter to expose themselves to old Sol in all his ultraviolet glory.   Mad dogs and Northerners go out in the noonday sun.

But anyway, I wouldn't dream of calling one of our proud Seminoles a 'redskin' and for more reasons than that they're actually not red at all, having the sense to stay out of the sun, but none the less, they are an indigenous population which is not really the case with a Washington professional football team or its owner. No thought has been give to calling them the whiteskins or blackskins despite the player's origins.  But this is America now and  the right to make money, even if it defames or mocks the innocent is sacred.  Daniel Snyder, even though as a Jew he should know far, far better, still thinks it's OK. 

I'm sure I don't have to waste time illustrating how obnoxious this team name is even if the owner is too stupid or too greedy (or both) to realize it but for someone who loves irony, it's fun to speculate about a buyout.  If the Florida Seminole tribes could buy the Hard Rock Cafe franchise for a billion dollars, perhaps the Washington Redskins might become available and particularly if Snyder gets tired of the ridicule he so richly deserves.  It's fun to speculate about a name, but I'll keep it to myself and I have a feeling the tribe has too much class and business sense to consider any of my suggestions.

Keep your God in your pants.

Oh come on, at this point you really can't get away with telling us the Christian right doesn't have more perverts and hypocrites lecturing us about morals than the general population and don't pretend that turbo-charged Christianism isn't a way to get around the morals nearly everyone was born with.  A cynic might be tempted to suggest that getting around common decency and respect for life and freedom itself has been central to religion, public and private.

" Popular Michigan contemporary Christian radio DJ fired after arrest on child sex charges"

Blared a headline on Raw Story yesterday.  Ho hum. Now you may be tempted to start in with the "most Christians" argument, but don't bother. It's not my intent to smear most Christians unless they're the ones who look the other way or argue that because most Christians aren't child sex traffickers, bigots and perverts or hypocrites who make a living excoriating behavior they indulge in, you can't condemn preachers, colleges or their moral or financial exploitations.  Hell, there's even a Christian parable condemning such rock throwing dirt bags, not that normal people with a normal sense of right and wrong need such primitive tales.  Child prostitution?  What a quandary - perhaps we should ask what Jesus would do or take Bible classes because the law is too vague and you can't trust the unbelievers.

I'm not often in churches and so the fact that I've heard an alarming number of "God loves sinners"sermons is disturbing.  Could it be that churches are offered as a hiding place for rapists, for haters, for criminals under the assumption that Christianity will make them better people or at least help them avoid punishment, secular and divine?  Could it be suspected that the main purpose of the religious posing and bad music is to cloak the hate, the prejudice and bigotry and self righteousness and sometimes the nastier things like child prostitution and rape?  It would be hard to show that church attendance or loud Gospel quoting has any salutary effect on morals and harder to claim that being involved with the Christian Media or a Christian College hints that someone is not a moral monster.

And if you're tempted to call me prejudiced, I admit it, I am -- the same way I'm prejudiced, I'm prepared to assume that after all this time, the e-mail from a Nigerian princess who wants to send me ten million bucks is any more sincere than the "Christain DJ" who pays to have sex with little boys and if all these Christian Nation, Christian morals blowhards have their way, we won't have a secular government to lock them up.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Remember Rosemary Woods?  Perhaps I should give my customary sigh and ask if you're even old enough to remember Richard Nixon's secretary who, as she claimed was dextrous enough 'accidentally' to erase a potentially incriminating tape seven times!  that was long before e-mail but she gave many months of material to the comedians of the mid 70's when Republicans were heavy handed thugs and bungling burglars as well as ordinary liars, crooks and cheats. the psychotic religious mystics and professional manipulators came later.  Somehow we became inured to such executive chicanery by the time the Bush White house lost  some 22 million e-mails.  Losing data was part of the nature of things said Darryl Issa and how "shameful" of the Democrats to whine about it.

They've become so smooth, of course, that we no longer hear the tables turn and turn they do and the White House press secretary nor any Democrat can dismiss the whole lame story by saying "we screwed up" and get away with it.  Once again, it's the old Republican refrain "It's OK when we do it" and of course, making a bombastic fuss about e-mails is a convenient diversion from the fact that there really is no evidence of any scandal. Sad to say, too many people still see fires when the sleazemeisters light their smokescreens.

It works so well that all the smoke about Benghazi has obscured the fact that the ten embassy attacks and 60 dead during the Bush/Cheney years have disappeared from the American consciousness, even now that the elderly warmongers have risen once again like Nosferatu from his foetid coffin, seeking to spill more American blood.  Does anyone have a stake?

I'm tempted to write my Democratic senator to suggest a new national anthem: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.  I've always liked the tune.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Never forget, never remember.

Good morning Republicans and welcome to another bright new day of  washing our sins in Obama.  And haven't we been having fun preempting the Democrats from using our martial spirit, thanking every veteran for his service by damning Obama for rescuing the one and only soldier (oops, warrior ) who was treasonously disillusioned with our dear war?  Another day, another reason to impeach!

And welcome back to our neocons. Awake after their long sleep to remind us how Obama's weakness has, as we predicted, turned our faultless, perfectly arranged, positively inspiring bastion of freedom in Iraq into a flaming hell of Extremist violence. Let's greet their resurrection with a resounding chorus of  Bonzai Benghazi, Benghazi as we turn his success in capturing a perpetrator into another outrage and let's waste no time since corroboration that the attack really was a response to an Internet video works against us.

It may be another good time to toss out more chaff, more distraction: immigration, gay marriage, climate change racism and Christian rights to make sure the Libtards exhaust themselves chasing the chum while we triumph where it counts, our weapons gleaming in the bright light of a martial dawn.

For lies are the truth and truth lies and Fox is forever.  Thank you for your service. How else would we accuse the father of a war prisoner of being a Muslim terrorist or elevate a rumor to a final verdict but for Fox, the botoxed faces incapable of betraying a lie.  Chemical weapons, Biological weapons, mobile labs, nuclear weapons, centrifuges, yellow cake -- al Qaeda training camps and rape rooms: Saddam and 9/11!  not a smirk, a twitch, a tell.  No, the  America haters were wrong when they said it would be a quagmire with no end and we're right that it's now a quagmire with no end because of Obama.

The quagmire is our glory and our glory eternal, hail Bush and Cheney.  In the words of  Saint Giuliani:

President George W. Bush stood amid the fallen towers of the World Trade Center, and he said to the barbaric terrorists who attacked us, "They will hear from us." Well, they heard from us. They heard from us in Afghanistan and we removed the Taliban. They heard from us in Iraq, and we ended Saddam Hussein's reign of terror. And we put him where he belongs, in jail. They heard from us in Libya, and without firing a shot Gadhafi abandoned his weapons of mass destruction. They are hearing from us in nations that are now more reluctant to sponsor terrorists or terrorism. So long as George Bush is our president, is there any doubt they will continue to hear from us until we defeat global terrorism.

We succeeded and Obama failed and the Fox shall lie for ever and ever.  Benghazi!  NEVER FORGET, NEVER REMEMBER.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

L'état, c'est moi

Brent Douglass Cole has described himself as a “sovereign American Citizen attempting to thwart the obvious conspiracy and subterfuges of powers inimical to the United States.”  Yes, these Sovereign Citizen folks are few and deliberately far between but they're like an appendage of something large and pervasive and disturbing.  Cole for some reason fancies himself “a statutory Attorney General of the United States”which he'd have a hard time explaining, at least to me, since if each man is sovereign, the entire concept of a United States and a government with elected officials with any power to do anything is suspiciously self-contradictory.What he's saying is that all which makes the United States United and comprised of states is sinister and inimical to statehood and unity.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  The Sovereign Mr. Cole shot a Bureau of Land Management ranger and a California Highway Patrol officer who were investigating some vehicles at a campsite. Predictably, he got shot himself although not fatally. I'm not sure why but of course when one is sovereign, one rules, by definition which makes for problems when someone else rules too and everyone is armed.  Perhaps that explains the universal and ancient need for rules that modify and limit and define sovereignty. It's why we need some form of elections or some form of ruler to replace that personal sovereignty, it being a mess if every voter votes for himself.  Short of being totally bonkers, anyone has to admit that personal sovereignty has to be strictly limited in scope and power if anyone is to survive long enough to enjoy the wild and free life of the animals.

Now of course we'd like to portray Cole as being just plain nuts, and indeed articles about him list his preoccupation with conspiracy theories most of us don't hold.  I have to defend him on that if I want to defend my own opinions and my right to have them -- and who knows?  Conspiracies abound and even wars have been started and prolonged by real, genuine conspiracies, as you may know.  No, that's not the nuts part, or at least not the dangerously nutty part: it's the notion that one is not subject to laws, that any piece of ground is mine to rule and no one else's, and all by some nebulous right that can be defended with lethal force.  Mr. Cole seems to believe that his right to declare sovereignty the way some kid might call 'dibs' makes law enforcement illegal and laws inapplicable unless he approves of them and unless he makes them.  It's the law of the jungle, in essence.  The law of  tooth and claw if you've got them and guns if you don't. It's the law of the brat and the law of the bully and a law individuals rarely enforce successfully, thank God.

Now Civilization has a price and a price that may seem excessive to some and nay well be excessive to all but doing something about it is only possible without that odd notion of  the "sovereign citizen" and the individual's right to make or ignore laws ad libidum.  A paradox, isn't it?  But in today's ultra polarized America everything we do to deal with the fringe enrages the more mainstream and the cynical Right, the Corporate Right, the Religious Right are sure to make use of it.  Cole is now a cause and another one of many and I don't know what the hell we're going to do about it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fox lies, America dies

"You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" 

asked Joseph Welch of "tailgunner Joe" McCarthy, for decades the prototype for the vicious, unscrupulous and dishonest Republican Jihadist.  The unstated but nearly universally understood answer was "hell no."

McCarthy has been somewhat de-demonized after years of propaganda and  revision, but compared to what we had in 1954, at the height of the Communist witch hunt, the wealthy Corporate Political monsters now stomping on America like something from a 50's Japanese monster movie makes those little demons as pathetic as the rubber suited Godzilla compared to the thousand foot tall  computer generated version.

But is it surprising that the one thing Foxzilla has to say about the ultra radical (too radical for the al Qaeda leaders)  ISIS, now rendering all those dead and wounded and all those spent billions nugatory, is that not only is this not Bush's fault, but Bush foresaw that this would happen if we had some weak, Muslim-smelling, black Communist incompetent like Barack Obama in the White House. 

This is how America ends, not with anything but Fox.  Of course as any non-Republican -- and by Republican I mean malicious, truth-hating saboteur -- Bush signed off on the pledge to remove troops by 2012 and of course the troops wouldn't have been there but for him and his malicious lies and greed for conquest in the first place. We might not have had the Great Recession either if  he didn't lust after the title of "warpresident" he invented for himself but just like that recession that followed his war and deregulation policies, Iraq's inevitable collapse, long predicted by Bush's opponents now becomes Obama's fault and a Republican prediction.

At this point there's little left but gallows humor and bleak despair because we're all idiots, all deranged and all preoccupied with our own petty grievances:  missing airplanes, private racist comments by old men. Preoccupied by irrational fear and hog-tied by our own propaganda we just don't care enough to recall the things of only a few years ago and while we natter about like nitwits, we take step after step toward fascism and jingoism and a government of dollars, not men.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Thank you Mr. Bush

 Our efforts against Al Qaeda in Iraq and elsewhere have been much like the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, killing off the weak bacteria and letting the strong get stronger.  The group they're now calling ISIS seems more radical and has more blind hatred for America and the West than the old guard and they're likely to "take back" the Iraq we set up for destruction, killing hundreds of thousands and putting control into the hands of brutal and incompetent people.There's not a hell of a lot we can do, even if  that most strange of bedfellows Iran joins forces with us, setting new records in the World Cup of irony.

As much as that idiot John McCain and that fool Tony Blair would like to re-invade, it's not likely to happen, although some wag might suggest that the only reason to suggest such a thing would be an opportunity to call Obama cowardly and weak.  They're already doing that and have been doing that since before he was elected.  But speaking of irony, hardly anyone seems, except perhaps for Fareed Zakaria, to be calling attention to the weak, cowardly and dishonest George W. Bush who lied us into invading a country, a recent ally, where Al Qaeda was not, that had nothing to do with an attack on our country and doing it with an inadequate force and a non-existent plan for what to do after the conquest.

This is nothing less than an inevitable continuation of Bush's War, a war we lost by starting it.  For those who remember the premises of that war: the nuclear program, the WMD, the connection with 9/11 and the presences of al Qaeda and its training camps within Iraq, it might be a sad thing to remember than none of those things so often repeated in such bellicose language actually turned out to be true and all of us who were called anti-American traitors, cowards and worse were actually right -- and that includes whole countries like France.  In a sane country apologies would have been made long ago, but this is not a sane or honest country, but one still trying to justify it's tragic mistakes and to blame it all on others. 

Al Qaeda, as we were warned, is now bigger, uglier, more insanely brutal and about to take over in Iraq.  Thank you Mr. Bush although you'll have to share the ignominy with Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, inter alia. This is the world you have given us along with an America too divided and self-hating to pay its bills and maintain itself.  We stay up nights listening to lies, inflated or invented scandals and hating each other for it. We install depraved religious idiots, fascists, anarchists, separatists, denialists and bigots in the legislature while slandering, libeling the president and thwarting every effort to deal with the mess the Republicans left us. Thank you for uniting Syria and Iraq under the flag of  death, for destroying any hope that this new century might be better than the old one. Thank you for bringing back the spectre of nuclear war in the middle east, for giving Iran and other nearby countries a good reason to build nukes. Thank you so much. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Silly Saturday

OK, call it silly Saturday, but they're all the same, all silly and it's a shame.

Went to the grocery store and grabbed a package of the yogurt covered cranberries my wife likes and what do you know?  They're now Greek yogurt covered cranberries although they taste exactly the same. The revolution is over.  There's no more non-Hellenic yogurt to be had anywhere in any form.  Active, inactive, fruit on the bottom or no fruit at all, it's all Greek, all the time and forever. Another win for commercial groupspeak.  Opa!

The way we talk!  I've never heard it before but in the last few days, I'm hearing "in the wheelhouse" over and over.  Sometimes it's my wheelhouse or your wheelhouse and as far as I can tell it might mean what "in the ballpark" meant last week, or perhaps it still does -- who knows?  Not me. Anyway, my boat has a wheelhouse but I'm not in it.  Too damn hot today and  by the way God Damn it, it's not genius whatever it is - nothing is genius, it's a damned noun, not an adverb!  Is that in your twerking wheelhouse brah?

So whatever else might be trending today amongst the low word count, #instaenglish set, keep it to yourself. I've had enough, go put it in your hashtag and smoke it or shove it up your shark and jump it. I don't need a reminder of how nothing makes any sense and how much you like it that way

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Who's blowing those pipes and where is he leading us?

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
-Buffalo Springfield-

Another day, another school shooting, or so it seems.  It's not clear yet, as I write this, just what happened to the perpetrator except that he's dead and I'm only using the male pronoun because face it, almost all rampage shooters are male.  The only other facts available at the moment are that one person was killed and that the weapon used was "semiautomatic" which is really of no import but that it excites people who have no idea what that means and are afraid of guns, which is precisely the effect the media desire because it pins us all to the tube.

But it does seem that it's not only a growing thing, but a rapidly growing thing, but perhaps once again, impressions can be deceiving particularly when there's a strong desire to make it a political issue. 

Actually it may be otherwise and if  one looks for patterns, it might seem that rampage shootings on the whole reached a peak, along with violent crime in general, in the 1980's and has tapered off since and the Sandy Hook incident looks almost anomalous.  That certainly is not the impression I get from the news.

So lets look further back and let's average it out per period  and use the per capita figures to adjust for the exploding population to make it easier to differentiate noise from trends and it seems the years from 1980 through 1990 were indeed a maximum.  I might be tempted to say we're at a similar rate to what we had during the Great Depression.

 I might be tempted to mention that one of the largest gun control programs  dates to 1967 and that violent crime accelerated sharply thereafter.  There was a big bump during prohibition and a minimum during the 'Fabulous 50's' as Ike used to call it, but off the top of my head, that 1980 to 1990 period coincided with Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.  Make of that what you will and I'm sure one can look at other trends and events and conditions and make correlations and speculate about causation,  Does it show a marked effect of gun control milestone legislation like the 1967 restrictions on types of weapons, the end of mail order sales, the end of "saturday night specials,"  waiting periods, gun owner registrations and the like?  I don't see it. I see a long term downward trend. 

"Too many guns!"  is a favorite explanation for a trend that may be apparent without actually being true, but again, the number of households with guns seems to be steadily declining and while US gun production is up, it might have a bit to do with the 13 years of war we've suffered through. Fewer people have an inclination to have guns in the house and although it's easy to dismiss the positive correlation of gun ownership per capita with gun crime of any kind,  we're just not being objective if we see more guns everywhere.

Really, just what is happening here?  More than one thing certainly, but we can't rule out politics -- not in everything at a time when politics determines what we perceive in all things. What it is, ain't exactly clear but it's clear to me that there's a piper making some kind of music and we just can't seem to resist following him.

Monday, June 09, 2014

The End is Nigh

You don't mention the Southern Poverty Law Center down here in the South and you certainly don't want just anyone to know you're a supporter.  You'll be ostracized at best because they are on the shit list of every right wing group from top to bottom, all with their own pet hate, usually centering around that bogeyman : the United States Government.

SPLC's Hate Watch Blog had been tracking the pair of raving lunatics who murdered
two policemen, declared a revolution and killed themselves in a Las Vegas Wal-Mart.  They were part of the idiotic standoff between the Bureau of Land Management and Cliven Bundy this Spring and are fond of spewing the apocalyptic, revolutionary idiocies typical of a huge number of armed, hostile and bellicose Americans identifying themselves as "patriots."   SPLC is right to do so and too bad more attention wasn't paid to the warnings.  The as yet unnamed couple is hardly unique either in their armaments or attitudes and if the flood of e-mails I've been getting addressed to "fellow patriots" is an indicator, there are a number of them out there. A week hasn't gone by in years without a prediction of something horrible that Obama and the Liberals were about to do that fellow 'patriots' needed to be aware of.

No need to elaborate -- suffice it to say, none of their predictions have ever come true to the slightest degree, the FEMA concentration camps or the National Guard rounding up guns, although people like that will still still hang on to hope that there will be an excuse to get into the fortified bunkers and the armored vehicles and get out the big guns. I have no idea why these people chose today over yesterday or tomorrow, but perpetual predictions of that financial collapse and that gun grab would only make sense to a psychotic spoon fed hatred and lies by not only the militias and survivalist groups, but Karl Rove and Fox News and the Republican Party.

It's hard to crack down on people who haven't yet done anything and of course the above mentioned groups make it harder, portraying the subhuman hordes as heroes, but it's time we admitted we have a problem more serious than making sure no one ever says anything racist, or misogynistic or insensitive and it's time we pay attention.  History seems to be trying to repeat itself and the cast of characters is already in costume.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

American Dreamin'

On this hot and steamy, Summer dreamy, hammock-sleepy Sunday.

I happened to have CNN on the other day and they were airing another one of their puff pieces on "The American Dream,"  one of those annoying reflections on how the land of opportunity is failing to be a land of opportunity.  I find it annoying because of the assumption that the USA is somehow a unique place when it comes to providing upward mobility, a more honest name for a dream that, let's face it, is everyone's dream.  I've seen figures  that argue for other countries -- quite a number of other countries -- being better places to get ahead, to get out of poverty, to save some money, to make a good life for your children, but we still call it an American Dream as we still use the word freedom to stand for some special thing we, and only we possess.

The people interviewed all seemed to believe that those Americans about to enter or having recently entered what we like to call the "work force" will not have as prosperous a life as their parents.  I remember hearing the same thing about my children's generation some 30 years ago.  If hope for the future is the American Dream, pessimism is the American affliction.  Things are always getting worse.

One young female interviewee told us her vision for the future of  people her age was bleak "because of all the guns and violence" and the answers of  the others were is bizarre and confused as hers.  It's true, the middle class of America has been shrinking for quite a while, and with a possible brief interlude, so have living standards, including health and education for all but a tiny proportion of us, but perhaps the dumbing down includes an inability to correlate the marginalization of the masses with the rise of  retro-Capitalism and the idea that we're all dependent on the very, very rich for our prosperity.  It's an idea that does I think, depend heavily on a misunderstanding of Capitalism and of prosperity.  I could easily cite Mexico or other countries with a lot of wealth in a few pairs of hands and very little opportunity that doesn't involve swimming a river or climbing a fence.

But here at home, in my unincorporated area with large spreads of trailer parks and not much more than a crossroads shopping center or two, I have to wonder just how much trickles down from a few dozen multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires who live withing walking distance from me. They don't shop here, lobby effectively to keep much commerce and traffic away and although property taxes do help our schools, most people of the white persuasion send their kids to private institutions, many of them parochial. There are very few employment opportunities even at the minimum wage.

Most of the visible trickling is the water consumption of the private water parks and golf courses owned by the sports and entertainment folks you never see, unless it's one of their helicopters going overhead.  They might as well not be here.  I can only wash my car on Thursdays and Sundays while the bulk of our drinking water nourishes grass and water slides. Trickle Trickle.  They're not really job creators other than for lawn mowing and pool maintenance.  If you find a job here, your employer would likely be a local business man.  A shop keeper, painter, mechanic, grocer -- and they are suffering still, long after the market has hit historic highs and unemployment is back in the 6% range.
It's percolating up, not trickling down and of course we understand how it all ends with no affluent consumers to fuel jobs and opportunities -- and no dream, American or otherwise, just pessimism, hopelessness.

But a good part of  the malaise has little to do with the failure of Capitalism, the growth of  monopoly, the reduction of choices and opportunities, it's also the legacy of round the clock scandal, outrage and doom marketing having so little to do with objective reality.  The 20 something has less to worry from guns and violence than I did 50 years ago, she won't be drafted, she's more likely to live a long life and not to be bankrupted by medical bills, less likely to die in a car accident and a lot of other better than nothing things, but the spirit of defeat and hopelessness is there. The habit of looking backward instead of forward of seeing defeat in victory and victory in being a loser and I have to blame the information age and the technology that lets those very, very rich prosper by providing that stream of disinformation and outrage people just can't tune out and don't know enough to question. All we lack is a Colosseum.

Before Bowe Bergdahl spoke a word to anyone, the media had already turned from hope and relief to slander and scurrilous accusation lest any unity arise.  I understand his parents have received threats and that the slime machine is at full production levels. The machine that cannot tolerate our feeling good about anything lest we tune out, unplug, wake up, fight back. 

I think it's a fine example of how dreams and hopes and even hard work are turned to shit for corporate profit:  an explanation of the success of all those apocalyptic destruction blockbuster movies and those apocalyptic shooting/suicide shootings, stabbings and bombings because we all know the end times are here and nothing is ever going to get better, unless you live on Jupiter Island Florida with a private water park and a private helicopter to fly you between your yacht and your private golf course.   These good folks aren't interested in seeing Godzilla stomp on our cities.  They are Godzilla and they've been stomping for years -- and God help anyone, from peon to president who interferes.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Transient Sanity Events

Particles do escape from black holes, or so argues Steven Hawking. the phenomenon is called Hawking radiation. Things do escape beyond the event horizon at the NRA as well apparently. It's called a Transient Sanity Event.

Members of Open Carry Texas, people who think it's really cool to act like a 6 year old with his new Hopalong Cassidy cap gun on Christmas morning, are cutting their NRA membership cards in half over a statement that somehow escaped the gravitational well of craziness and irresponsibility:
  “Let’s not mince words. Not only is it rare, it’s downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary.” 
The official apology for having allowed a sanity particle to escape was forthcoming from the NRA who called it one man's opinion and assuring the OCT people that
 "Our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners”
 except perhaps fellow gun owners who think these people are "downright scary."
 “If they do not retract their disgusting and disrespectful comments, OCT will have no choice but to withdraw its full support of the NRA and establish relationships with other gun rights organizations that fight for ALL gun rights, instead of just paying them lip service the way the NRA appears to be doing,” 
 responded Open Carry Texas openly.You know what's even scarier?  The idea that anyone thinks the NRA is too reasonable and that there may be other groups who are even more irresponsible.

Can this possibly end without bloodshed?  Texas, like many states, has a " menacing" law that has consequences to someone who causes you  to believe they will cause physical harm or serious physical harm to another person, their family or property.  Frankly, someone coming into a place of business or even a public square looking like Pancho Villa, or even carrying a holstered pistol makes me feel menaced and without a doubt, the police would be deluged with calls about armed men at playgrounds, gas stations, fast food restaurants and everywhere.  Welcome to the OK corral because every one of these open carry fools might just have that secret blaze of glory fantasy.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Impeach Obama, Court Martial Bergdahl

Damn the troops, Damn everything.  We're the Republicans

Didn't you see it coming?  The release -- let's call it a rescue -- of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the clutches of the Taliban after 5 years should have been a feel-good story for all of us as well as his friends and family in these days of supporting the heroic troops, but a country pleased with anything,  even for an afternoon,  just can't be allowed by the party that has long made it it's business to tell us just how awful things are  and just how it's Obama's fault.  As you know, some Guantanamo "detainees" yet to be tried for anything, were taken custody of by agents of Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl's release.  Even an old cynic like me went looking for a flag to fly.

Before the rest of us had finished saying "welcome home,"  Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sternly warned America that this would have dire but unidentified consequences for all of us and of course "the troops."  Let the Inquisition, the disgusting denunciations and fear mongering begin. What did you expect? 

That Obama, said Oklahoma Jim, “clearly violated laws” that require him to notify Congress 30  days before any transfer of terrorists from Guantanamo Bay.  He betrayed us all, as is his wont, by failing to explain to Congress how the threat of releasing the satanic horde had been substantially mitigated before uncorking the Guantanamo bottle and thus denied the Grand Old Bastards the opportunity to filibuster, stall, vilify and ultimately prevent the recovery of Bergdahl, who, up until now, had been an illustration of Obama's uncaring negligence.

So stop your anti-American celebrating, Jodi and Bob Bergdahl and the town of Hailey, Idaho.  This is an impeachable offense, and your favorite son be damned.  And don't you dare bring up the sale of arms to our enemy Iran to bargain for the release of hostages because that's entirely different. Reagan was a Republican and it's OK when we do it.  Besides Obama has deprived the depraved party of their ability to denounce him for neglecting Americans in captivity and that's unforgivable.

And of course, say some of  the True American Patriots: sometimes our sainted troops aren't worth supporting.
"Bergdahl is a stank-ass hippie who accidentally joined the Army and decided to smell some Afghan flowers one night"
So he wasn't worth the time and effort even searching for him and it was, as when that Communist Clinton tried to punish al Qaeda with his "Monica Missiles,"  all a cover up for the Benghazi scandal, or the VA scandal or whatever scandal we are selling this week.
 "And, oh, yeah, Bergdahl will be treated as a hero instead of the little coward deserter that he is. If he makes it to a court martial, he’ll get slapped on the wrist, get an honorable discharge and go on his merry way to co-write a book." 
He's a traitor and deserter for sure say the patriots in and out of the military, proving, if proof is needed that there is no God who punishes those who need so badly to be punished.  Of course the punishment of living in a country that doesn't punish the Republicans is punishment for the rest of us.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Stupid, stupid, STUPID

It's probably true in most states:  leaving your keys in your car is illegal as well as irresponsible.  Ohio statutes, for instance, state that:
  "No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key from the ignition, effectively setting the parking brake, and, when the motor vehicle is standing upon any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway." Ohio Revised Code 4511.661(A)
One might think the same logic would apply to leaving a loaded gun lying around and particularly where unauthorized people and children might get to it. One would be right, at least in Homestead, Florida where Juan Manuel Martinez, Jr. described as a hard working truck driver and part time volunteer youth baseball coach handed his father a loaded AK-47 at a party and just to show it off.

For no sane reason, here was a 7.62X39 round in the chamber and the safety was off  when Juan Sr. put it down on a picnic table where his six year old grandson saw it and pulled the trigger. Grandpa Juan Sr. was dead before he got to the hospital.  According to the news, alcohol and perhaps some other drugs were involved as one so often hears when idiotic and ignorant things pertaining to firearms and cars are done.

Yes, this is a huge country and one in a million is a big number,  but one still hears too many stories like this.  It's not superfluous to say that according to the time honored principle of always treating any firearm as loaded even when you know for damn sure it isn't, the thing never should have been anywhere near a minor or displayed where there's a party and people are drinking -- or displayed at all in the opinion of this writer.

Again, Florida law holds Martinez Jr. responsible and he now faces charges of culpable negligence of a firearm with easy access to a minor.  I'm sure he wasn't aware of the law and wasn't thinking about it, if in fact, he was thinking anything beyond "hey look at my cool toy"  Which makes me wonder how effective laws are when practically no one reads or understands or knows about them.  We constantly hear there aren't enough of them and simultaneously that there are too many of them but the most heated proclamations of that sort rarely involve specifics.  Neither side of the great gun divide really likes specifics because those lead to reason and interfere with the zealotry.

Now Martinez didn't need any kind of permit to own that weapon and wasn't required to take any kind of training or pass any kind of test.  If he had, perhaps he might be surprised like so many are, by how difficult the laws are to understand even for lawyers, but he would, even with the meager level of education for a permit in Florida, been aware that to do what he did was illegal even if he didn't realize it was massively stupid.

In fact although I'm licensed to carry a concealed weapon, I'm scared to do it because of laws that can make it illegal to use a gun to frighten an assailant or to display it in anger -- but not to kill him with it.  You'll recall the Florida woman sentenced to 20 years for using a gun to warn off someone against whom she had a restraining order.  Is it so awful to think that requiring someone to learn the relevant laws and rules of safety might not really run afoul of the second amendment? 

But I'm not going to get into the need for more or less in the way of legislation, I'm going to argue against ignorance and for teaching the public about what they can and cannot do, about what they should and shouldn't do with a dangerous thing like a gun.  the people who used to make it a business to teach safety have gone rogue and turned paranoid -- the other side is also often so paranoid that it fears safety education will interfere with their mission and in a nation so well armed and poorly informed there is a need no one is there to fill.

Of course there is far less sturm und drang when it comes to the equally tragic weekly stories of kids left in hot cars to die, strangled by pet snakes, drowned in pools and swimming holes, beaten, neglected, poisoned and starved.  Our concerns about guns are too choreographed and involve so many stereotypes and straw men and political shibboleths to leave us room to consider that child safety has so much to do with informed and responsible adult behavior.  Reducing the stupid factor might just be an effective way to reducing such tragedy whether it's about pools, hot tubs, hot cars and hot lead and it is something we can start to do right now and without having to resolve our passionate differences.  Can't we all agree?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I predict. . .

Yeah, sure.  If there's any thing we do that is more likely to be wrong than our political predictions I don't know what it might be.  If we ever get the impression that someone is good at prediction it's usually because we've forgotten or never examined the vast matrix of failure the occasional success is imbedded in. The best we can do is to give odds but somehow that 30% chance of rain never seems to mean much or be of much use when deciding whether to take the boat out today.  That national speed limit was sure to save lives, that drug law was supposed to make life safer and it must be someone's fault someone's failure when it didn't. Just whose fault you say it is, says much about who you are, whether it's Obama, the NRA, women, men, the Liberals or the Tea Party. Our predictions and the predictions we choose to believe give us away.

Of course the purpose of many predictions isn't to predict, but to scare, to inflame, to mislead, to further a cause and of course to generate ratings. The public loves being inflamed, scared and to be the first to know something scary and all to the point where the authority and veracity of the predictor is ignored. Hell, we passionately adhere to predictions that have proved wrong for thousands of years, telling ourselves "any day now" and we find enough to satisfy ourselves in predictions that "there will be a storm, an earthquake, a war" to keep the fantasy going.  If anything sums up the human condition I'm not sure it isn't the story of Chicken Little and when a prediction that a giant asteroid would kill us all on March 35, 2041 appeared on CNN, the cackling started before many dumb cluckers bothered to notice that no such date is currently possible or even questioned the authority of the prophet: Marcus575.  NASA says it's a hoax but of course nobody is going to forgive that buzzkill bunch of liars, and after all they're lying about climate change and that face on Mars. Like most thwarted predictions it will end in a witch hunt by angry and ever more intransigent denialists.  I predict.

I will go to heaven - he will go to hell, my enemies will be defeated, truth will prevail, peace and justice will arrive and Congress will make sensible gun laws that will make the number of  suicidal rampages vanishingly small and "not one more" innocent will be killed by a madman. If only we "raise awareness" there will be no more misogynists, if only we shut down their websites.  If only we can identify the witches, these horrible and horribly eternal animosities will go away in the pure land to come. No our problems are not diverse products of  the large spectrum of human nature, our culture, our unwillingness to identify madness in ourselves, there are specific things; large magazines, specific cartridges, certain materials and there are vague, hazy and slippery legal solutions that sane people must agree upon even without being able to define them.

The "world," whatever that means, didn't end in 1982 or on any of the countless and continuously predicted dates before or since, but it's nearly always because of some minor miscalculation or some misunderstanding about what world means or what the end means or some conspiracy of  liberals/conservatives/Jews/etc and some prophets go on predicting and making careers out of it, succeeding only when the prediction follows some random event: "that storm hit New Orleans because God doesn't like this or that."  The laws get stricter, more complex, more contradictory and more punishment oriented but mayhem persists. The laws get more liberal and don't dictate whom we marry, yet the end is still nigh and God's wrath increases. We wear more rubber bands, say more prayers, hunt more witches -- and we turn to violence.

So to avoid such depressing thoughts about the difficulty in preventing the horrors that have defined human history since before human history we demonstrate, we make up inspiring slogans, we walk around and run around and wave signs and chant hey-hey ho-ho. We hide in our feeling of community and nostalgia for the good old days of protesting real things we could really do something about and we wear rubber bands and ribbons the way we used to sacrifice goats to Yaweh -- and usually we're wrong when we think we're affecting the random nature of existence.

We go to Church, we pray for peace and for aunt Lucy not to die and for rain or for the rain to stop or for our team to win. We punish the sinners, we expel the unbelievers, because without them we'd have to consider our efforts hopeless and our passions vapid.  So sure, assemble in the stadium and shout and pretend some simple "sensible" move will end the pain and when you can't really define what that move, that law, that policy, that program might actually be, why you can just trot our the witches, the straw men and line them up in the blame gallery. After all there is an ample supply of idiots, liars and idiots out there and we must be so right because they are so wrong.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Mourning the dead.

"Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day;" says Wikipedia, but who listens?  Our infatuation with the military, highly promoted since George W. Bush invaded Iraq, has made every day cause for "supporting the troops," but as something we all need to do without any financial help whatsoever from the Government. There is precious little said about increases in pay or benefits on either of these days.

Memorial day used to be Decoration day when people could remember and mourn the enormous number of dead in the Civil war, often going out to cemeteries and having picnics "on the ground." It's been extended to include our respect -- and our sorrow for all those we've lost in all our wars, not all of whom, sad to say lost their lives defending our "freedom" or way of life, as one might gather from all the jingoistic hoopla and "warrior" worship that now surrounds the holiday. 

And just for the record, despite all those "thank a soldier" e-mails going round, although there are many reasons to revere many of the things our military has accomplished, from the revolution itself to the liberation of Europe, our "freedom" owes as much and more to our government, our courts, our constitution and most of all the voters. The many Indian wars, the Spanish war, the Mexican war, the Vietnam war, the invasion of Iraq and a handful of other minor interventions and invasions have nothing to do with our being or remaining an independent democratic republic owing it's legitimacy to the will of the governed.  The danger to our freedom is far more internal.  It has been and always will be.the federal troops called in by Eisenhower to integrate the schools were defending the freedom of Americans. Mining Haiphong harbor and the carpet bombing of Hanoi had nothing to do with it.

This is a day for mourning the dead, not for promoting the kind of politics that uses people as pawns, and perhaps a day for lamenting our eagerness to put the living in harms way for less than worthy reasons.  It's hardly a day for glorifying war or warriors.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Careful fangirl, you look like a tweep

What's with this country that we celebrate every scrap of slang we find the way your dog jubilates over some scrap of fish guts it finds on the sidewalk?  The media made a fuss the other day, as it usually does, about some "new words" in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.  No, not the dictionary of slang, if such a thing is to be found these days, but a bona fide dictionary. 

The words are pretty much all bits of transitory slang, used not to be more specific or to describe a new thing, or to be poetic or amusing, but to sound hip -- like you're part of some in-crowd and not the dweeb you are. ( do you need a dictionary for that one?)  If only it were a literary in-crowd and not the kids who hang out around the convenience store dumpster at night inhaling something from a bag. Of course the media itself is a prime source of these elevated words and often simply invents them, like "efforting" or "trending" so as to sound, again, like some kind of in-crowd that knows more than you.

Bits of transitory slang become Cliche of course, when put into the context of a dictionary and though they may have been amusing metaphor, "crowdfunding" now means funding by public subscription as in an IPO, but with a twist, an an edge, an attempt at childlike yet hip wit, which by the fact of its formal inclusion is no longer there. So although a "lexicographer," if I can type that without spitting on my keyboard, thinks "fangirl" is a fitting and suitable replacement for "fan" so it is written and so shall it ever be and thus the mawkish and mouldy line about language having to change becomes the paradigm for fossilization of slang: not a word carved in stone, but the imprint of a formerly living thing impressed into the mud like tire tracks from a Pinto or a stain left by fido on your carpet that you never can quite remove.

Fan of course used to be slang (for fanatic,) as did formerly frowned upon words like phone, but contractions are not what we're seeing so much these days, but rather balbative contortions and portmanteau words, like "glamping" which I heard for the first time today to describe "glamorous camping."  It's use, like so many "new words" is really just a marketing gimmick -- a way to get you to pay big money for a tent at the Indianapolis Speedway infield. The ESPN folks were as giddy as kittens with catnip over that one, but it's not slang and it didn't come from common usage and -- excuse me, it wasn't crowdsourced. (If anyone's looking for a new word for words designed to sell the otherwise unpleasant, what about 'suppository?'

But not only is "selfie" here to stay or carved in stone as it were, we're even still as googly as an adolescent girl with her first corsage and looking to display it as much as possible before it fades.  But it won't, it's "in the dictionary"  and my grandchildren will certainly live to view a "Selfie" by Andy Warhol or Rembrandt at the MOMA or perhaps that Arnolfini Selfie at the National Gallery in London.  I'll bet you've been trying to work "selfie" into conversations for a month now, haven't you?  And I'll bet you think it's still so cute and you sound so 'with it' by using it -- just like you did with that lime green leisure suit you bought back in 1978 to go with your groovy perm.

Certainly they'll live to see a Supreme Court Chief Justice with his baseball cap on backwards and probably long after baseball has disappeared and perhaps a Republican president trailing his shorts behind him like a bride's train just like the kids used to do 140 years ago.  Certainly people will still be chopping up and reassembling words but the more creative will have abandoned them by the time the "lexicographer" adds them to Merriam-Webster, if indeed anyone uses a dictionary instead of searching twitter for "new words" or old words misused and meanings confused.

At least Merriam-Webster recognizes that it's possible to include words that will have to be removed, even though inclusion in these days is almost a signal for excision.  Who even knows what 23 skidoo means or what a Gandy dancer is?  But a lot of trouble could be avoided by a little lexicographical forbearance.  Maybe we should keep slang in a separate place, kind of like the apocrypha or your dirty socks and let it season for a while before sanctifying it because Selfie is already taking on new and less savory "meanings" and who knows, it may be too vulgar for dictionaries your kid might read, if kids refer to dictionaries at all any more -- in which case, never mind.

Friday, May 23, 2014

On the couch

Being laid up with some flu-like virus and with eyes too blurred to read gives one the chance to reflect on the real world -- that being the world we see on television.  Normally we're not expected or encouraged to reflect on it at all, but to fall into its clutches by having our minds numbed by throbbing beats, bouncing bodies, empty excitements, stupid scandals and steered toward desire for products and services that we associate with that throbbing, sobbing, semiotics-laden landscape of aspirations.

But when your head isn't quite up to it, when you just don't have the energy or enthusiasm, perhaps you start to make unintended observations, as I did this morning hearing about special services offered to special customers of the major airlines, including expedited check-in at private and secret facilities with disguised entrances: special trips from one gate to another in Porsches and Mercedes SUV's.  Anyone having recently experienced the Kafkaesque hamster habitat and third world refugee center of LaGuardia, (where I caught this damned bug ) must needs reflect on the fact that despite being what most people would call affluent, he's farther from being treated like that than from being on the next flight from Cape Canaveral to Mars.  The stratification of our society is extreme and getting quickly more so, but its not always apparent.  Not always apparent even though, like the downstairs people of  a couple of centuries ago, we spend much time gaping at the aristocracy in awe and dreaming of living like that.  Sorry, if ever we get to climb those stairs, we'll be carrying a tray.

Of course that aristocracy is different: from Kanye and the Kardashian, looking like those silicone love dolls, posing plasticly as the get into their Porsche SUV while cameras flash, to the ten million a year CEO being coddled up front while a 5'6" mere millionaire doesn't quite fit into that center seat (aisle and window extra) and sweats and hungers and feels like a sardine in a can. Even Mister ten million is on the low end of course, the Princes have their own jets.

But it's the advertising you get during the day --  endless ads from personal injury lawyers dedicated to making you rich, to trade schools dedicated to getting even you a job, to insurance companies dedicated to get even your car insured and getting you a 400% APR loan -- to miracle berries and pills and books and videos dedicated to getting rid of that weight you put on sitting around all day on the couch watching this crap and eating all that wonderful slop from McWendy King.

Dating services that use GOD to get you laid  must hope you won't ask how GOD got into the machine or why he needs it. Chances to get in on the latest class-action suit gravy train. Pills to cure diseases you never heard of like non-37, or restless pinky or low Z or other ad agency names you wish you had so you could get some of that new, hip and exclusive $300 a pill medicine with names like Sumerian princes: Adulamadu, Boogalumadab, Ziusudra. Drugs with a list of side effects that ought to scare hell out of you.  And of course nothing cures what actually ails me!

But you've got the whole day ahead of you, lying on the couch and you can watch Jerry and Maury to see people so hopelessly trapped in ignorance, stupidity and lust that their lives serve to make you feel better about your own misery. You have Fox to make you so riled up about TFN Obama you will forget about why things used to be better for people like you.  We have entertainment - we have virtual worlds - we have endless hamster tunnels to explore without leaving our couches, our hovels, our trailers, and unlike previous generations of hopeless troglodytes  we can dream our sad dreams of getting to a better place without having to die.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Never Forget?

It's hard to find a coherent picture of Barack Obama in the roar of inflamed rhetoric.  The rhetoric itself is incoherent, mixing accusations and metaphors with the most bizarre results -- and such is the passion for defamation it's probable that no consistent pattern will emerge for a generation.  He is what he is, somewhere behind the halo of  howling hate that surrounds him. 

Whatever you might think of him, it's tempting to plug other presidents of another party and another color into the equation just to test for mendacity and absurdity: such as perhaps to assume Reagan were president during an embassy bombing ( he was) or W.  ( he was) and it's tempting to reverse it by assuming it were president Obama not showing up at the dedication of the 9/11 Memorial Museum last week instead of the notably absent Bush whose 8 year career was floated on the attack and the subsequent War on Terror. 

George W. Bush deliberately stayed away for reasons, possibly good reasons, of his own and was in Arkansas attending a ceremony for Medal of  Honor recipients, but anyone with an unfoxed memory remembers how the Republicans jeered, howled and hooted about flag pins and the size of the flag on Obama's airplane and posted endless doctored photos and forged documents designed to attack his patriotism -- anyone with a sense of irony would wonder what those dancing devils would have done to Obama and snicker at what they certainly are not doing to Bush for staying away. It would have been a three ring, twin tower circus for weeks and months and years if not cause for impeachment.

And of course, I had to find out about this from the foreign press, the mis-titled Liberal American Media being far too concerned with other trumped-up Obama scandals, racist comments by team owners, Benghazi bullshit and other ridiculous attacks on Hillary Clinton, missing airplanes and the various and ever-changing apocalyptic horsemen wearing Obama masks.

Never-Forget George probably didn't forget and he's probably right not to make the dedication all about him, about his going to war with an uninvolved country and permanently giving up important civil rights in the process instead of being about the dead.  Still, it  makes one wonder at all the "never-forget" passion that was and is as transient as the all the "never-forget" events -- but then, forgetting, like false remembering is part of  the game and it is a game after all.  The only real goal of that game is winning.