_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day 2014

I’m not a particularly reflective kind of person.

I’m the kind of guy more interested in tomorrow than yesterday and I don’t spend a hell of a lot of time dwelling on the past.

For me, as someone who spent most of my adult life in the uniform of my country, every day is a day to remember those I served with.

Every day is a day to remember those who trained me and led me, to remember those I served alongside of, to remember those I trained and led myself. Those men and women – the good and the bad, the faithful and the faithless, the leaders and the followers, the admirable and the shitheads, those who came before me and those who came after, those that still live and serve and fight, those who like me who have hung up their swords, and those who have given the last full measure – I remember them, each and every single one, each and every single day. 

They are always with me, because they are the people who made me what I am.

If you’re an American, you owe your freedom to those who risked all in your name.

You don’t need to kiss our asses, you’re not required to shed tears, you don’t need to hunt down a veteran and prostrate yourself.

 

Veterans Day is not a wake. It’s simply a day to remember.

 

We are not heroes, most of us anyway, we are simply people like any other, doing the best we can with what we have under difficult circumstance. We came when called and did our duty for our own reasons. You don’t have to understand why, just as you may not understand why a fireman would run into a burning building instead in the other direction.  And that’s okay.

In our country, in a free society, the soldier should be no more revered than any other citizen.

We should respect the warrior, those who are worthy of that respect, but we should never worship them. For there is no glory in war. It is a horrible, brutal business and make no mistake about it. We can wish it otherwise. We can rail against the utter stupidity and the phenomenal waste and the bloody obscenity of it all. We can declare and decry war’s terrible necessity and its terrible cost. Be that as it may, given human nature, for now war must often be done and our nation, our world, needs those who would fight. But it is a duty, a profession, a job that must be done, not some glorious spectacle.  

Perhaps in some distant future we will have put it behind us, perhaps we will have made war and the warrior long obsolete.  We can certainly hope that it shall be so. We can, and should, strive to make it so.

Perhaps some day we will set aside a day to honor the peacemakers and study war no more. Perhaps.

But I wouldn’t count on it.

Until then, on this day, do take a moment to remember the warriors. 

We set aside today in order to acknowledge those who did their duty to the best of their ability. Raise a glass and honor those who served their country in peace and in conflict, those who came when called – both those who came against their will and those who came of their own volition – all of those who came to stand between home and war’s desolation.

This is their day.

Honor them and then, and then, go on about your lives.

Live.

Be free, revel in it – because that, ultimately, is why they do what they do.

 

To all of my brothers and sisters in arms, those of you who wore the uniform, those of you who have stood the long watch, those of you who walked point into hell, and those of you who are even now out there in the dark and dangerous corners of the world, my message to you remains ever the same:

Respect is earned, each and every day, by every word, by every action. Respect cannot be bought. Respect cannot be bargained for. Respect can be lost with a single thoughtless deed, with a single careless gesture, by a single failure to act.

Men and women will lay down their lives at your command, but they won’t do it for freedom or democracy or other such ideals, they won’t do it because you’re bigger or tougher or because you’re the meanest son of bitch who ever lived or because you’re smarter or better educated or because they love you or even because they hate and fear you.

They will only do it because they respect you.

Respect is why Americans remember you today – or not.

Your honor does not depend on the honor of others. Your self-respect does not depend on the worthiness of others.  You have sworn an oath, you word is good or it is not – there is no middle ground, there are no half measures, either you keep your word, all of it, not just the easy parts, all of it, or you don’t.

Honor, duty, respect, these things are the only authority you have, guard them well.

You are the first bulwark against the night. 

You are more than a simple Soldier, a Sailor, a Marine, an Airman, or a Guardsman, you are the very symbol of this nation and its people – for good or for bad.

When you put on that uniform, you are the United States of America, you represent us all. Never forget that, not for one single moment.

Hold your head high and your back straight, be proud of who you are and what you represent, hold your honor dear, be always true to your oath. 

Stand steadfast by your duty even when there is no one to see.

Follow those who lead and lead those who will follow.

Leave no one behind.

And remember the fallen. Always.

Thank you for your service on this day and every other. Here’s to you, you magnificent bastards, one and all, here’s to us and all that we shared.

//Chief Warrant Officer Jim Wright, United States Navy (Retired).

Monday, November 10, 2014

Powder Burns

Cheer up, Liberals.

I strongly suspect the ongoing GOP victory dance will be short lived.

The last time Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, we got, hmmm, well, okay, lets see, we got the worst terrorist attack in history followed by two wars, one of which turned out to be under false pretexts but what the heck, right? So long as we’re bombing brown people, it’s all good. And hey, it wasn’t all for nothing, we got the Great Recession sparked by the mortgage industry collapse followed by a complete implosion of the investment banking industry which led to record high unemployment rates.  So, then Republicans cut taxes and borrowed a couple trillion from China and deferred the payments to the next administration and America went from a budget surplus to the biggest debt increase since Reagan. The good news, of course, was that recession and war had almost no effect whatsoever on the rich and they grew enormously more wealthy from their failed business ventures while either blowing up our jobs or shipping them to India.  And that’s the real difference between the Great Depression and the Great Recession: In a depression the rich take to jumping out windows and swallowing bullets, in a recession they just get richer while the rest of us lose our homes and livelihoods.

What I’m saying here is that last time Republicans were in charge? Think back, what happened? What did we get?

Yeah, we got America’s first black liberal president.

In a landslide.

Twice.

Not everybody thought that was a good thing, but the tide of history would say that’s progress and America lurched just a little further up the beach and away from the primordial ooze.

Now, yes, once Democrats took over the White House and the Congress, they then proceeded to screw it up. Because, well, that’s what political parties do, shoot themselves in the foot, sooner or later.  Every time.

However, last time, liberals being not quite as skilled with firearms as their conservative counterparts, they didn’t quite blow the appendage off like the Republicans before them. Still, first they lost the House and then when that didn’t learn them, they lost the Senate.

And so the wheel has turned yet again and Republicans are back on top.

Now, being politicians, Republicans, of course, learned absolutely nothing from the last go ‘round, last two go ‘rounds, last three, four, five, okay, ever. And this morning they’re already twirling their pistols and shooting up into the air like drunken rednecks on the 4th of July.

But it’s only a matter of time.  Likely Conservatives will shoot themselves sooner rather than later since most of the reasonable Republicans are long, long gone, leaving lunatics like Ted Cruz to run the asylum.

With Cruz and his impeachment talk, you can already hear the click click of the hammer cocking.

The previous piece here on Stonekettle Station, Ted Nugent Is Just Fine And So Are You, was widely shared.

As is usual when this sort of thing happens, in response I get a lot of email and social media messages. 

In this case, I got the usual unhinged poorly-worded spelling-optional yellow-eyed threats of death and damnation. And of course I got the expected deluge of gloating from smugly joyous conservatives celebrating the fact that their fickle God finally granted their grubby prayers and hallelujah amen!  I also got a large volume of angry agreement from Liberals, mad their party crapped out, as they fully expected it to do, but still, it does tend to piss people off when their favorite team just gives up ten minutes into the playoffs. I expected liberals to be angry, and they should be.

It appears Democrats take it as a given that Obama will ride out his last two years as a lame duck, becoming more and more bitter and hated and ineffective.

They’re already looking to Hillary Clinton in 2016 as their savior.

"My only concern is if the Clintons can overcome his [Obama's] negative approval rating [in 2016, if Hillary decides to run for the Oval Office]"

My only concern…

Only.

I saw that comment on Facebook under a share of the Ted Nugent essay.

The commenter isn't the only one afflicted with Obama Disillusionment Syndrome. I've gotten a number of comments and emails like this from liberals (or non-conservatives anyway) determined to pessimism. A lot of these folks seem to believe the Democrats were right to distance themselves from the President during the recent election, and in fact they seem to feel that the only reason Democrats didn't win was because they didn't distance themselves enough.

If only Democrats had been more … Republican, they would have won. How that would be a good thing is beyond me, but there you go.

Liberals lost the House in 2010, they lost the Senate last week, and they've lost faith in Obama.

Democrats are filled with doom and gloom and they're sure the country is headed into the crapper. The only thing that can save us is Hillary.

But now having abandoned their president, liberals are desperately afraid Obama will lose them the White House in 2016 and they're just so terribly depressed over it all.

This amuses me.

It amuses me because the vast, vast majority of the liberals moping around America today didn’t bother to vote – well, not unless pot was on the ballot. A lot of conservatives didn’t either, but liberals overwhelmingly stayed home. And as I’ve said repeatedly, if you don’t vote, you voted. 

If you didn’t vote, democrats, then you voted for the republican candidate.

If you didn’t vote, then you voted for the Tea Party.

You voted to restrict a woman’s right to choose.

You voted to spend trillions on a giant wall across Mexico.

You voted for war.

You voted to let poor people go hungry.

You voted to take away your own healthcare.

You voted to give the NRA free rein.

You voted to give the Koch Brothers a tax break.

You voted to let the seas rise and planet warm.

You voted to replace science in the classroom with creationism.

You voted for the Keystone Pipeline and you voted to drill in ANWR.

You voted to ensure the next Supreme Court Justice is a conservative.

You voted to send more of your own jobs overseas.

But hey, don’t feel bad, you got legal weed, that ought to help blunt the pain a bit.

And now? Now Liberals are worried that the guy they abandoned, that the Congress they put in place through their inaction and apathy, will lose them the White House two years from now.

As I said, this amuses me.

It amuses me for a number of reasons.

President Obama is currently looking at a 41% job approval rating, not great, not terrible. For reference refer to G.W. Bush's approval rating at the same point in his second term, or his low point which was right around 25% (which is even worse when you realize that Bush's high point, right after 911, was in the 90s). If Obama’s approval rating is anemic, Bush’s was downright manic depressive.

Obama is looking at 41% approval and about a 53.3% disapproval rating, a mere 11 point spread. That really isn't much. And while it isn't great, it honestly isn't all that bad either. In fact, it's about average for both Republicans and Democrats at this point in their second term.

Meanwhile, Congress' approval rating has been hovering in the single digits.

Today it's 12% with an 80% disapproval rating, nearly a 67 point spread with much of that directed at the Republican led House.

And yet, the House picked up Republican seats and the Senate swung to the right. Mostly because the public is dissatisfied with the direction of the country and blames whoever they're told to blame by media and politicians and their fickle fickle gut. Moreover, we always blame the president, any president.

And most of all, as I’ve already mentioned, because while Americans love to bitch and complain about their government, they typically won't get off their apathetic asses for the mid-terms and take responsibility for their own governance.

But, I don't think you have to worry about Hillary Clinton overcoming Obama's approval rating – one way or the other.

Voters have short term memories. More, we tend to live in the now, each election is a decision largely unto itself. Barack Obama easily beat his Republican opponents in 2008 and 2012.

Why? Because last time Republicans were in charge, they shot themselves in the foot.

When Democrats were last on top, the worst thing that happened was America got a crappy healthcare law.

But when Republicans were last in charge, we got two wars and a ruined economy.

Come 2016, you don't have to worry about overcoming Obama's approval rating.

If history is any guide, Republicans will do that all by themselves.

Painful? You bet it’s going to be painful.

These next two years are going to be extremely painful.

But that’s the price you pay when you stay home.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ted Nugent Is Just Fine and So Are You

image

 

I cry tears of blood.

Tears of blood, no really.

Bloody tears. For the last best place. For all the little red white and blue warriors.

That was Ted Nugent, crying tears of blood no less, November 7th, 2012, the night Barack Obama won reelection in a resounding victory.

 

image

Pimps and whores, oh my!

And Obama will destroy America.  Oh he’ll do it, he’ll destroy America, he will. He’s the Anti-Christ, you know. The big Black Gay Muslim Devil. 

And us, those of us who cheered Obama’s reelection? We’re pimps and whores and soulless fools. Oh yes, yes!

 

image

Economic and spiritual suicide no less, that’s what we voted for! You betcha!

Sure.

Crazy, right? I mean, crazy, really really crazy, Right?

Two years later, and here’s America, undestroyed. 

Look at those tweets. Ted wasn’t just wrong, Ted was crazy wrong. Is crazy wrong.  When they call him the Motor City Madman, they ain’t just speaking metaphorically. He’s a cackling loon. He’s the kind of guy who licks the bugs off your windshield.

Crazy.

That’s what a lot of you sound like this morning.

I’m talking to you, Liberals. You sound like Ted. Oh No! Oh God Oh God Breathe! Breathe! Ohgod ohgodohgodohgod! It’s the end of the world! It’s the end of America! Soulless fools! Doomed! We’re dooooooooomed….

 

Take a deep breath, Democrats, Liberals, you’re going to be okay.

 

Yes, you lost. You lost big.

Conservatives won. They won big.

That’s how it goes, if you win all the time, you’re not living in a democracy. You win, you lose, and it all depends on the fickle whims of the frightened and the apathetic and the ignorant and those motivated enough to go pull the handle. That’s democracy. You win some, you lose some, and last night you lost. Big time. Tough shit. What are you going to do about it?

No no, don’t look away. Turn and face it.

You lost. Hard.

Conservatives kicked your liberal asses up and down and black and blue.

And you had it coming fair and square.

Democrats haven’t got anybody to blame but themselves and the sooner they start dealing with it, the sooner they’ll start winning again.

Listen to me, listen good: Republicans and their Tea Party Berserkers, they didn’t win because they’ve got any big vision, because they’ve got some big grand plan for a shining city on the hill. They didn’t win on their charm and charisma and sparkling movie star smiles, these people aren’t Reagan. They didn’t win on their smarts and calm rationality and friendly ah shucks demeanor.  They didn’t win on their compelling optimism, on hope, on the promise of a better future and a chicken in every pot. They didn’t win by rallying the nation with a message of sacrifice and patriotism and hard work and a restored American dream of churning factories and purple mountains majesty and endless fields of golden waving grain from sea to shinning sea.

They didn’t even win because of gerrymandering and Koch Brothers money, those things helped, sure, but they not why the GOP won last night.

Conservatives’ entire message was one of doom and gloom and woe and bloody tears. The commies are coming for you! The terrorists are coming for you! The gays are coming for you! The gun grabbers and the job stealers and the Ebola are coming, oh yes they are, on a tide of filthy brown Spanish speaking pestilence surging across the undefended border and it’s coming for you! It’s coming for you and it’s going to rape your women and eat your children and murder your babies and Obama is doing nothing, nothing! to stop it! Clutch your guns and your bibles and be afraid, be very very afraid! Everything sucks, and it’s going to keep right on sucking and we suck but we suck a little less than they suck so suck it up and vote for us!

They won.

With that message.

Let me be brutally honest here: if you can’t beat that, if you can’t beat these dour pessimistic dimwitted fear-mongers, then you just don’t deserve to win.

It’s really that simple.

The simple truth of the matter is that anybody could have seen this coming.

Democrats have been working on losing for two years. They were determined to lose this election, and lose they did, right on schedule.

When you think you’ve lost, when you go into the battle convinced that you’re going to lose, well, folks, you’re going to lose.

If you are in any way whatsoever surprised by this defeat, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Let us use my own state of Alaska as an example: 

Robert Heinlein once said that politicians are like diapers, they should both be changed periodically and for the same reason. But we Alaskans, we like to think of ourselves as rugged frontiersmen, we like wearing the same dirty skivvies day in and day out – that’s why we’ve kept Don Young in office for four decades. We bitch and complain about the stink, how things never change, and we scratch at our collective diaper rash … and put on the same filthy pair of underwear every couple of years, as we did yet again last night. Don Young handily won himself another term of freebies from the oil companies while we Alaskans get to scrub the skid-marks out of his boxers.  And so it goes. The guy will die in office, and we’ll probably reelect him for two terms after that. Because, well, that’s America. We claim to love democracy, and we use it to elect ourselves Royalty.  Booyah!

And nobody cares, because what Alaskans vote for or against makes no difference whatsoever to the nation at large. We’re always last and least.  Last to finish voting. Least in electoral votes and representatives and citizens. The big names, the big candidates, potential presidents, they don’t swing through Alaska on their way to Washington.  The first lady doesn’t come up here to stump for her man and rally the local boys, no, not unless she’s on her way to China by way of Siberia. On election night, by the time they get around to us it’s all over but for the crying. We arrive at the party in our dirty shorts just in time to get handed the tab and a broom. 

Nobody cares about Alaska and, really, you can hardly blame them.

But not this time.

For once, Alaska was a critical state.

It was a critical state because one of our Senators, the one up for reelection, was Mark Begich.  A Democrat.

Get rid of him, replace him with a Republican, and the national balance of power shifts.  On election day, by the time they get to us, if the senate isn’t already Republican, we’re the swing vote, and if it is, getting rid of Begich pushes it further to the right – and in the Senate, every single vote matters. Every one.  And so, for once, Alaska was important.  Koch Brother money flooded the state like the rising ocean. Patriotic Americans For Patriotic American PatriotismPAC were thick as the thieving bastards they are. Signs sprouted like weeds. Our phones rang incessantly. Ted Cruz himself came on election day to stump for Dan Sullivan, Begich’s Republican opponent – and since when has anybody in Texas given a good goddamn about an election in Alaska?

And Begich? What was Begich’s strategy? How did Begich plan to hold his seat?

Why by attempting to blow every conservative in Alaska, of course.

The first thing the Begich campaign did was abandon his own base, abandon his party and president and the people who elected him. Then he attempted to prove to conservatives that Mark Begich was a bigger Obama hatin’ small gubmit lovin’ gun totin’ Carhartts wearin’ conservative than his conservative opponent – who, by the way, isn’t even an Alaskan. 

Sullivan ran ads that said “Begich votes with Obama!” and Begich countered with ads that said “Nuh uh, I hate me some Obama too!” 

Sullivan said “Begich voted for Obamacare!” and Begich countered with “Yeah, but I didn’t want to, they made me! Besides, everybody was doing it!”

Sullivan aired pictures of himself running on the beach at Eklutna Lake in Marine Corps PT gear looking for all the world like one of those Viagra Commercials, when your manly muscles are bulging and your silvery hair is silvery and the time is right and you’ve flown twenty miles out of Anchorage in an airplane you MacGyvered together out of the bones of America’s vanquished enemies just so you can work out by running over giant boulders after wrestling a grizzly bear and chugging a pot of black coffee and polishing your pistol…  And Begich countered with, I dunno, video of himself on a rooftop wearing a big sweater or something talking about how he hates Obama and love babies.

And it was just so painfully obvious to anybody with half a brain that Begich was already lost. 

Begich was playing defense.

Sullivan was on offense the whole way like the Marine he is.

Begich was Republican Lite.  He was a man without friends, by his own choice. His entire campaign reeked of failure and defeat and second place. His entire plan depended on convincing Republicans that a liberal Democrat would be a better conservative Republican than, you know, an actual conservative Republican.  And why in the hell would anybody vote for the Ersatz when they can have the real thing, I mean, come on, if Alaska has to have a Republican well we might as well have an actual Republican – at least we know where we stand. Right behind the oil companies. And mining. And tourism.

The Irony is staggering. Last night Alaskans voted to raise the minimum wage, impose a restrictive law on mining, and legalize pot – and then they voted for the conservative big business Republican. And you’ve got ask yourself, in a state that just legalized weed, that dealt a blow to business and stood up for the little guy and the environment, how in the hell could the Democrat lose?

And that, right there, is a metaphor for the rest of last night’s Democratic disaster.

Instead of distancing themselves from the President, Democrats should have stood firmly with him.

Oh yes, they should have.

Because if there is one Democrat, one, who knows how to win and win big, it’s Barack Obama.

Unpopular, stymied at every turn, cerebral in a nation of raw emotion, and yet Obama wiped the floor with Mitt Romney. 

And he did it not by hiding from his record, but by getting it right out there. Obama played offense right from the start.  His message was hope, change, optimism. He rallied the crowd. He made us believe. And he won. He won big. He won Mitt Romney’s home state. He won Paul Ryan’s home state. He won John Boehner’s home state. He mopped the floor with his opposition and pushed their knobby heads into the toilet.

Barack Obama is the one Democrat who knows how to win and that, that right there, is why he’s the President. Twice.

Democrats like Begich, they lost and they deserved it.

They lost because they were stupid.

They lost because they were afraid.

They lost because they were beaten in their own minds before they even got going.

Rather than run away from their records, they should have embraced them, just as Obama did.  The Affordable Care Act? You goddamned right I voted for it. It’s shitty. It’s a mess. It could be one hell of a lot better, but it’s a hell of a lot better than nothing. Which is what Republicans wanted for you, worse than nothing, their only plan was the rich get richer and you better not get sick. So, yeah, you bet I voted for it, for you, and here’s why, here’s how you and you and you and you and you benefit from it. Here’s how we could make it better. Here’s the lies the other side told, death panels, do you see any death panels, mother fucker? Well, do you?  No you don’t, sit down and shut up and listen! Obama? You damned right I stand with him, I don’t abandon my friends just because the going gets hard and I won’t abandon you. Look here, healthcare reform, Wall Street reform, unemployment below 6%, war in Iraq over, war in Afghanistan over, Osama Bin Laden dead, industry thriving, banks recapitalized, stock market at record highs. Repealed DADT, that’s right, and guess what? Our military is as strong as ever, better even.  Moammar Gaddafi is dead in a ditch, even Reagan couldn’t pull that off, bitches. Pell grant program expanded.  Massively increased support for veterans. Yeah, the VA is fucked up, no doubt, it is and so what else is new? Republicans didn’t fix it, but we’re going to. And in the meantime we increased funding and support, we pushed through a new GI bill providing millions in tuition assistance over the next decade, and we got multiple tax credits to encourage businesses to hire veterans, we’re the ones taking care of veterans, the First Lady is the one taking care of Veterans, damned sure ain’t the fuckers who sent them into war, is it? Under Obama we pushed through the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act to punish firms and individuals who aid Iran’s petroleum sector.  And yeah, everybody hates the EPA, sure they do, but they damned well like drinkable water and air that doesn’t give you cancer, don’t they? Death panels? You want your kids living downwind from a coal plant, do you really?  Hey you know what else? We passed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act which prohibits credit card companies from raising rates without advance notification, mandates a grace period on interest rate increases, and strictly limits overdraft and other fees. And while we were at it, we passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, giving women who are paid less than men for the same work the right to sue their employers after they find out about the discrimination, even if that discrimination happened years ago. What did republicans do? They fought it every step of the way. They’re the party of legitimate rape. Oh yes they are. If you’re a woman and you’re voting Republican you’re basically saying you’re property. Is that what you want, is it? So now lets talk about who owns your uterus, shall we? Let us just. Executive orders? Bullshit bullshit bullshit and bullshit, look here, let’s review who issued the most executive orders over the last thirty years, shall we? It sure as shit wasn’t Obama. Scandals? Yeah, let’s talk about scandals. And while we’re at it, let’s take a look at who grew the deficit and who shrank it, let’s look at budget surpluses and who pissed them away, oh yes, let us do that.  Let’s look at where America was five years ago and where it is now and let’s look at who shut down the government.  Record? You bet, let us talk about it. Obama? You Goddamned right I stand with the President of the United States of America and you damned well should too and since when should that be something to be ashamed of? So, yes, I stand with Obama, here’s why. And here’s why. And here’s why.  You want me to go on? Because I can, all fucking day and far, far into the night! Buckle up, Buttercup, and let’s review.

But instead, Democrats took their greatest strength, their most valuable player, the one guy who has proven over and over that he knows how to win despite everything … and they sidelined him. 

Republicans took the Democrats’ greatest advantage and turned it into Democrats biggest weakness.

And Democrats let them.

Democrats let Republicans write the narrative and history, my shiny electronic friends, is written by the winners.

You play defense, you lose.

Democrats lost last night because they deserved it.

Begich is out because he’s a wimpy little shit who doesn’t deserve to hold office.

Begich is out because he tried to fight a United States Marine with, what? A Sweater? Fuck him. Good riddance.

And that’s just how it is. If you want to be leaders, then you have to lead.

Democrats lost. And they deserved it. And they’re going to pay the price for it. We all will.

But it’s not the end of the world.

It’s not the end of America.

Republicans will shortly control both houses of Congress. And so? They’re not monsters,  they’re your neighbors, your countrymen, your fellow citizens and they beat you fair and square – or as fair and as square as politics ever is, which means it’s crooked as shit and so what?

Of course it’s crooked and dirty and unfair, no kidding. Where you been? If you can’t take it, get out.

But if you’re going to stay, then goddamn it ride it like you stole it!

The question is this: What are you going to do about it?

Are you going to go all Ted Nugent? Are you? You gonna sob and rage on Twitter? Are you going to spend the next four years crying into your watery lite beer, lamenting the End of America This Time For Reals!

Or, or, are you going to get off your ass and learn from your mistakes and rally your troops and get back in the game?

Do you think Obama is going to just give up now? Do you?

Buck up, Liberals. Dry your eyes and wipe the snot off your faces. The victors have already started fighting amongst themselves, they’re their own worst enemies. Now, get your shit together and stand with your President and stop acting like losers. The tide of history ebbs and flows, but ultimately you’re on the right side of it. Remember that.

The wheel turns and turns again and this too shall pass away.

Ted Nugent is just fine and you will be too. Really.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Balance of Power

Republicans are poised to take the Senate tomorrow.

And Democrats are terrified.

I’ve got hundreds of messages here, woe woe woe, what are we gonna do, Jim? It’s the end of the world!

Folks, first of all, nothing’s won until the votes are counted.

And second, political polls don’t measure reality. That’s not their purpose. Polls, especially the ones pushed relentlessly by agenda driven organizations aren’t designed to reflect reality, instead they exist to shape reality by doing exactly what they are doing – i.e. creating a self-fulfilling prophecy through manipulation of your perception.

The bottom line here is this: if you think you’re defeated, if those polls make you think you’re defeated, you are.

If those polls and your sense of defeat coupled to voter intimidation and deliberate attempts at disenfranchisement keep you home tomorrow, then they’ve done exactly what they were designed to do, hand the Senate to Republicans.

If you already think you’re defeated, you are.

Republicans will certainly hold the House tomorrow.  And they very well may take the Senate.

That’s how it works. You win some. You lose some.

America lurches back and forth, left and right and left and right again, like a drunk staggering into the future. Sometimes your party and your ideology is going to win, sometimes it isn’t.  And it for damned sure won’t if you don’t get out there and vote for it.

But you know what’s going to happen if Republicans do take the Senate tomorrow?

Do you know what’s going to happen if Conservatives control both houses of Congress?

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Literally nothing. 

That’s what will happen.

For the next two years.

Nothing.

 

So, if you think about it, in most regards, down here on the street, it’ll look pretty much the same as the last two years where Congress has accomplished … nothing.

 

Oh, sure, the very first thing Republicans will do is attempt to repeal Obamacare. 

They have no choice. 

They’ll have to – they’ve painted themselves into a corner on it.

And so, the first order of business, right after they all make a big showing of swearing in their new majority by reciting the Constitution, will be a rushed bill through both chambers to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act.  It’s already written.

Republicans will pass a repeal in the House.

They might even pass a repeal in the Senate by a simple majority vote.

Especially if Democrats continue to cravenly run away from the ACA instead of standing their ground and fighting. Instead of reminding Americans why we needed it in the first place and why the majority of Americans, including one hell of a lot of Republicans, benefit from the ACA every day – which is what Democrats should have been doing during their campaigns instead of pissing their pants.

Democrats should have stood with their president when it mattered, but of course they didn’t, they’re never any good in the clutch.

However, while getting a repeal through the House is likely a sure thing, getting it through the Senate isn’t.  Turnabout is fair play, right? Especially in Congress and Democrats can place secret holds and engage in filibusters same as Republicans. So getting that repeal through the Senate isn’t a certainty. But if the Democrats continue to crap out and Republicans do get their bill through, they won’t have anywhere near enough of a majority to override a presidential veto.

That’s right, veto.

See, the balance of power? Those constitutional checks and balances Republicans lately like to go on and on about? Well those cut both ways.

In order to get the president to sign a repeal, Republicans would have to actually put forth a serviceable replacement.

Republicans would actually have come up with something that does what the ACA does, only better

Republicans would actually have to create an act that provides access to affordable healthcare for millions of Americans, one that fixes the problems with Medicare and keeps it solvent, one that keeps all the many, many provisions of the ACA that Americans like and have gotten used over the last two years, and one that fixes all the myriad problems of the ACA.  Of course, they could have done that already. Conservatives could have participated in the process right from the start. Congress could have fixed the law, improved it, made it work better. But they didn’t. And they won’t now.

Republicans don’t care about healthcare, one way or the other. This isn’t about healthcare, affordable or otherwise. This is about beating Obama.

This is about putting the black man in the White House in his place once and for all.

So flush with victory, they’ll send a repeal to the president.

And he’ll veto it.

And why wouldn’t he?

No, really why wouldn’t he? He’s got nothing whatsoever to lose. 

It’s not like Republicans would be offering to meet him halfway.

It’s not like spineless Democrats can’t abandon him any more than they already have.

It’s not like he’s running for reelection. 

So, why would Barack Obama sign a repeal of his signature accomplishment?  Unless Republicans offered to replace it with something that’s actually better?

And really, the ACA sucks, so if Republicans came up with something better, well, shit, folks, how’s that bad for us?

But they won’t. Republicans can’t come up with anything better. They are pathologically, ideologically incapable of it. It’s just not in their nature. So they most certainly won’t.

And the president will veto their repeal.

And conservatives might hold both houses, but they won’t hold enough of a majority to override a veto. Not even close.

And there things will stop.

And nothing will happen.

So, naturally, the second thing the new Republican majority will do is attempt to impeach the president.

First they’ll threaten Obama with it, better bow down, admit defeat, boy, or else we’ll do it. We will. We mean it.

Forgetting, of course, that if the last five years have proven anything it’s that Obama isn’t much intimidated by conservative threats. 

But Republicans, drunk with their new found power and utterly oblivious to the lessons of history will bluster and beat their fleshy chests and threaten impeachment based solely on the idea that being black and liberal in the White House constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Saner heads among them will caution that they don’t have a case, Constitution-wise, and perhaps sanity will even prevail. Perhaps.  But more likely, when the Republican congress figures out that they actually can’t push Obama around, that those checks and balances go both ways, well, then likely they’ll work themselves up into a suicidal frenzy of blood-maddened rage, and maybe, just maybe, they even go through with it. 

They can certainly get the Articles of Impeachment through the House. They could do that right now. All it takes is a simple majority vote.

But the Senate? The Senate would actually have to try the president. Publicly.

The House can act like a lynch mob, sure. But the Senate? The Senate would have to present proof. Legal proof, the kind that stands up in court. They’d have to present facts, actual facts, not made up bullshit from Fox News and conspiracy theorists. They would have to provide actual evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors. Republicans have tried this before. This time? This time they don’t even have a blowjob to hang their case on.

So what it comes down to is this: No matter what, to remove Obama from office, Republicans would have to make their case and  get two thirds of the Senate to agree. On record. In front of the nation.

And that’s just not going to happen.

So they’ll do nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Because that’s their whole agenda. Repeal the ACA. Impeach Obama. And if that fails, as it inevitably must, then allow nothing to happen. That’s it. That’s all they’ve got. If you want to see what a Republican led majority looks like, look to the House. They can’t even agree on the stuff they agree on. 

It’s not Democrats who keep throwing a monkey wrench into John Boehner’s machine, it’s Republicans.

And so what if they take the Senate?

Fix the debt? They won’t do that.

Balanced budget? They won’t do that. In fact, if history is any guide you’ll be lucky to see an unbalanced budget. More likely they’ll just shut the government down again, blame Obama, and go home.

Jobs bill? They won’t do that either. Minimum wage? Forget about it.

Immigration reform? Nope, they sure won’t do that. They won’t even “secure the border,” because that will cost hundreds of billions and require huge amounts of assets, organization, oversight, and a bigger government.  And they’ll need the cooperation of the president they just tried to impeach.

Energy policy? They won’t do that. Fixing America’s aging infrastructure? I wouldn’t hold your breath. Banking reform? Middle East policy? Action on climate change? Education? Gun violence? Tax reform? Trade?

Instead we’ll hear endless, endless debate over gay marriage and Benghazi and government overreach, but in the end they’ll do nothing and count it as a victory.

They’ll do nothing and count it as a victory because stopping Obama is all they care about.

Republicans have no big vision, they don’t even have a small vision.

They have no fresh ideas.

The GOP’s message is one of revenge and sullen resentment and fuck you I got mine and nothing more. 

They’re on the wrong side of history and they’re going extinct and they know it and it makes them small and mean.

 

And the very best they can offer for the next two years is … nothing.

 

But if you want more than that, more than nothing, then shrug off your defeat and gather up your friends and all the like-minded Americans you can find and get your ass to the polls.

Sure it’s hard.

Sure it’s an uphill battle.

Sure the odds are stacked against you and the game is rigged.

So what?

If your vote didn’t matter, then these rotten sons of bitches wouldn’t be working so damned hard to take it away from you. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Devil You Know

If you want a detailed description of everything wrong with America’s government, you need look no further than Alaska’s only Congressional Representative, Don Young.

Last Tuesday, speaking in front of students at Wasilla High, five days after another student committed suicide, Representative Young told the assembled teenagers that the death of their classmate was, well, essentially their fault.

No recording was made, but witnesses agree Young told the students that while alcohol and depression can contribute to suicide, it was specifically the lack of support from them and from family that was the real cause behind their friend’s death.

Amy Spargo, the school's principal was appalled, "When I heard 'a lack of support from family' and I heard 'a lack of support from friends,' I felt the oxygen go out of the room. But I gasped as well. It just isn't true in these situations. It's just such a hurtful thing to say." 

Young is nothing if not consistently oblivious to the impact of his tone deafness. He then went on to describe the evils of big government – conveniently forgetting, as usual, that he’s been bringing home truckloads of bacon to Alaska for more than four decades.

Don Young is Big Government. 

He’s been big government for more than forty-one years.

Continuing on in his profanity laced rant, Young also explained to the students how socialism and gay people are ruining America, a message that reportedly wasn't received very well by young people still reeling from the discovery that their congressional representative blames them for the death of their fellows.

Young is also apparently oblivious to the fact that some of his audience might be gay. And the kind of gender-identity shaming Young was engaged in, that from authority figures, is a significant contributing factor in depression and suicide among young people already struggling to figure out their identity.  But, yeah, Don, way to support your community.

Not content with blaming suicide on the students of Wasilla High, Young swung by the Mat-Su Senior Center here in Palmer the next day and blamed suicide on Obama and a liberal society that “coddles” people.

"This suicide problem didn't exist until we got largesse from the government. When people had to work, and had to provide and had to keep warm by putting participation in cutting the wood and catching the fish and killing the animals, we didn't have the suicide problem. It comes from the largesse of saying you're not worth anything but you're going to get something for nothing."

As always, Young ignores actual facts. 

Since the federal and state government began suicide prevention programs, and coincidently social welfare programs as well, the national suicide rate has steadily declined from 13.2 persons per 100,000 in 1950 to an average of 10 per 100,000 since the year 2000. The suicide rate has climbed in recent years, back to an average of 12 per 100,000 with the increase being largely attributed to the unusually high suicide rate among combat veterans after a decade of war.  And I suppose this is as good of place as any to mention the part where Don Young and his political party consistently block attempts to increase funding for veterans mental health care.

Let’s pull the thread on Young’s assertion: If the suicide of a high school student can be blamed on a lack of compassion and caring by his schoolmates, what exactly does the suicide rate among veterans say about politicians such as Don Young?

And what does it say about America herself?

Give that some thought, won’t you?

While at the senior center, Young was asked about the previous day’s incident at Wasilla High – which was the lead story Wednesday in the local media.  In classic Don Young fashion, forgetting that just minutes before he was ranting on about personal responsibility, the Congressman waved away any culpability on his part and instead blamed the school.

"I'm very upset with the school system that would take the side of individuals that are being disrespectful to their fellow students.”

Well, Okay then.

Whatever they’re paying Matthew Shuckerow, Don Young’s spokesman, it’s not enough. By Thursday afternoon, Shuckerow was in full damage control mode.

"Congressman Young was very serious and forthright when discussing the issue of suicide, in part because of the high number of tragedies that affect Alaskan youth. In no way did Congressman Young mean to upset anyone with his well-intentioned message. In light of the tragic events affecting the Wasilla High School community, he should have taken a much more sensitive approach."

Heh heh. Nice one, Matt. Just one problem: Don Young doesn’t do sensitive – not unless he’s sucking up to  Exxon and British Petroleum. But I digress.

And once again, Alaskans are shocked and embarrassed by Don Young’s churlish behavior.

Listen, if you're surprised in any way whatsoever by any of the outrageous nonsense that falls from Don Young’s mouth like nuggets from the back end of a moose, you just haven't been paying attention.

This isn't the exception, this is Don Young.

Don Young can't go a day without dropping another steaming load.

The simple truth of the matter is that Don Young just doesn't care.  He doesn’t care what you think. He doesn't care what Alaskans think. 

And why should he?

For more than forty years he’s been Alaska's only Representative.  He’s a blatant racist and an outspoken misogynist, who openly waxes nostalgic for the good old days when white men didn't have to share power with anybody else. He uses racial slurs openly, in public conversation with constituents, in interviews, and does not understand or care why it’s wrong.  He’s loudly, obnoxiously homophobic.  He’s a jingoist.  He’s anti-science in a state that depends for its very existence on science and engineering. He's anti-science in the state that is most directly affected by the terrible results of ignoring science. During what was arguably the single most important vote in the House in the last forty years, Don Young went on Safari to Africa.

Don Young is an outdated Neanderthal who long ago lost touch with the modern world.

He’s 81 years old and he’s not going to change and he’s made that goddamned clear. And he doesn't have to.  He’s going to go right on being Don Young.

But you know what? The simple bald truth of the matter is this: Don Young isn't the problem.

Don Young barely even bothers to campaign for reelection. And he doesn't have to. Don Young is entitled to his office.

And why shouldn't he think exactly that?

Why shouldn’t Don Young and those like him believe they are nobility? Why shouldn't they believe they are better than us? Why shouldn’t they believe that they are entitled to their office? Why shouldn’t they do and say exactly as they please?

For more than forty years Don Young has behaved exactly the same.

If there is one thing you can count on, it’s Don Young’s arrogant self assurance.  He’s a bull in a china shop and he revels in it, and he gleefully makes others pick up the pieces - just ask Shuckerow.

For forty years he’s taken money from out of state Big Oil and Big Mining and his political party and his rich cronies and he represents their interests while utterly ignoring everybody else.

To call Don Young representative of his Alaskan constituency is laughable. I’m his constituency, and he sure as shit doesn’t represent me. Nor does he represent that new generation of voters graduating from Wasilla High, the ones he just insulted.

Don Young represents the interests of one Alaskan and one Alaskan only: Don Young.

And yet – and yet – he is reelected over and over and over.  He cannot lose. No matter what idiotic thing he says, no matter his blatant bigotry and his consistent misogyny, no matter his contempt and dismissal of half his own state, Don Young gets reelected.

And that, that right there, is the problem.

We rail against politicians like Don Young, but we almost never hold them to account when it matters.

We go to the polls, if we go to the polls, and it’s just easier to reelect the bastard we know than to deal with somebody new.

In America, our government is of the people, by the people, and for the people.

That is its greatest strength.

And that is its greatest weakness.

In a republic, in a representative democracy like ours, the government you get is the one you deserve.

If you want a better government, then you have to be better citizens.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ebola: And It Goes Like This

Doctor, Doctor help me please, I know you'll understand
There's a time device inside of me, I'm a self-destructin' man

There's a Red, under my bed
And there's a little green man in my head
And he said, "you're not goin' crazy, you're just a bit sad
'Cause there's a man in ya, gnawin' ya, tearin' ya into two."

-
Destroyer, The Kinks, 1981
   Give the People Want They Want

If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

We Americans sure are a fearful people, aren’t we?

We’re always terrified of something.

If there’s one thing that epitomizes the American spirit, it’s fear.

We’re always pissing our collective pants over something.  We’re always terrified of one boogeyman or another.  We live in a perpetual state of constant pants wetting, we Americans.

We’re addicted to it. Fear. We just can’t get enough of being afraid.

It’s the emotion that defines modern America, fear.  Knee knocking, spine tingled, sphincter loosening, pants wetting fear. 

That’s us.

When we don’t have something to be afraid of, we make something up. 

We’re afraid of enemies foreign and domestic and everything in between. Clinical paranoia has got nothing on us as a nation, we see enemies everywhere. We’re afraid we’ll get invaded. We’re afraid we’re being invaded right now. Hell, we’re afraid we’ve already been invaded.  We’re afraid of the Chinese and the Russians and Mexico. We’re afraid of foreigners and we’re afraid of our neighbors. We’re afraid of conservatives and we’re afraid of liberals. We’re afraid of the young and we’re afraid of the old, we’re afraid of the rich and we’re utterly terrified by the poor. We’re afraid of terrorism and we’re afraid to fly and we’re afraid of the TSA.  We’re afraid of Nazis, and communists, and European style socialism.  We’re afraid of wind turbines and fracking and solar panels and electric cars, we’re desperately afraid somebody is going to come take away our giant trucks, and we’re afraid we’re going to run out of oil. We’re afraid to go to the store unarmed and we’re afraid of people with guns, we’re afraid we don’t have enough guns and we’re afraid that we might have too many. We’re afraid of the white cops and brown gangbangers and the yellow horde.  We’re afraid of kids with saggy pants and we’re afraid of that rock & roll music and we’re afraid of the establishment.  We’re afraid the government isn’t doing enough to keep us safe and we’re afraid the government is going to do too much. We’re afraid our kids are uneducated idiots and we’re afraid of education. We’re afraid of disease and we’re afraid of vaccines. We’re afraid of religion and we’re afraid of evolution and we’re afraid of climate change and we’re afraid of industrial disease. 

We’re afraid of death and we’re afraid of taxes.

We’re afraid of our past, and we’re afraid of the present, and we’re utterly terrified of the future.

Last week it was the Islamic State.

The week before it was … something. I forget. IRS? Benghazi? FEMA death camps? Illegal immigration? The Ukraine? The National Debt, the Deficit? Gay Marriage? The Arab Spring? Chemtrails? 2012? Fluoridation? The Rapture? Bird Flu? Missing airliners? Obama? Bush? The Reds? I’m afraid I just can’t remember any more, we’ve been afraid for so long that it all just runs together.

What it comes down to is that last week we were afraid of this week and this week we’re afraid of last week.

 

And now? Today? Today we’re afraid of Ebola.

 

There’s an old military adage popularized by Herman Wouk’s classic tale of paranoia and fear, The Caine Mutiny. And it goes like this:

When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!

That should be America’s motto.

E pluribus unum? Out of many, one? Obviously we don’t believe in that, do we?

No we don’t. Out of many one? Why that just smacks of things we’re afraid of, socialism and communists and illegal immigration. In fact, that E pluribus unum stuff just plain terrifies us, doesn’t it?

So we replaced it with In God We Trust.

But that’s complete bullshit too, isn’t it?

And In God We Trust? Trust? In God? Don’t make me snort chocolate milk through my nose.

If there’s one thing we don’t trust, it’s God. God has serious anger issues. That crazy bastard once wiped out the entire world in a fit of pique, right? And that’s the guy you trust? Really? Hell, the most pious believer doesn’t really trust God, does he? If anything, that’s what believers fear most, their God. They’re terrified he’s going to do something crazy. That’s the defining criteria of religion, don’t make God angry. Lightning bolts and poison toads from the sky. Plague. Flood. Famine. Rivers of blood. That’s what they tell us, isn’t it? Oh, you’d better not make God mad, or he’ll smite us all.  For them, God is like a Mafia protection racket, better pay up and be respectful while you’re doing it, or else God will burn your house down and cast you into the pit. 

Yeah, let’s trust that guy.

And it’s pretty obvious that religious Americans really don’t trust their God to keep them safe, from Ebola or terrorists or anything else, otherwise they wouldn’t go around armed and demanding that we seal our borders.  Q.E.D, Folks, just saying.

No, if there’s any motto that describes America today, it’s Herman Wouk: Run in circles, scream and shout.

Be afraid, be very very afraid.

We should put that on the money.

We demand fear as our right, we Americans.

Over the last month, we’ve been talking about Ebola on my Facebook page a lot. Now, the thousands of people who make up my Facebook audience are, as a general rule, a reasonable and fairly sane bunch of people – this isn’t an accident, I’m careful who I let into my playground.  But a month ago when I first mentioned the disease and suggested that compared to measles and the flu and AIDS/HIV, Ebola wasn’t exactly something Americans should be panicking over, I had to unfriend a number of folks who became obnoxious and almost literally demanded that I wasn’t afraid enough to suit them.  A week ago when I said that, as an American, you’re far more likely to trip over your cat and take a fatal header down the stairs than you are of dying from Ebola, the same thing happened. And, yesterday, when I again pointed out that, especially as an American, you’re a whole lot more likely to die from random gun violence at the mall than you are of contracting Ebola, I immediately started getting letters from frightened angry people, some hoping I get the disease and die a slow painful death, presumably so that they can feel justified in their pants-wetting fear, and many again telling me that I need to be afraid of the coming plague. Many of the messages were outraged that I had the effrontery to counsel calm and reason instead of fear and panic. Because not being terrified is just plain unAmerican.

And it’s not just me, is it?

That’s one of the chief complaints about Obama. How dare the president be calm and rational? How dare he tell Americans not to panic? 

“That’s a paradox of a president in a crisis,” says Jeremy Mayer, a political scientist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. “If he seems to be taking it too seriously, he’ll encourage a panic. But if he doesn’t take it seriously enough, he’s seen as lackadaisical.”

That’s the complaint, Obama isn’t emotional enough. He approaches a crisis like a law professor, calm, rational, let’s solve the problem. But, we don’t want that,we want an angry emotional rant about fear.  We want the President to declare war! Yes! War On Ebola! That’s what we Americans want, another war! You’re either with us or against us! Stand the Navy out to sea, launch the stealth bombers, open the missile silos! To the Bunkers, America! We start bombing at dawn!

First we were afraid that Obama wasn’t going to appoint an “Ebola Czar.” Now we’re afraid that he did.

No matter what, we’re determined to be afraid. Panic, it’s our right as Americans, it doesn’t really matter what Obama says or does, Americans are determined to panic no matter what.

We’re conditioned to it. When the bell rings, we drool.

In fact, if Obama tells you there’s no reason to panic, that’s a reason to panic!

"The U.S. must immediately stop all flights from Ebola infected countries or the plague will start and spread inside our 'borders.' Act fast!" screamed Donald Trump.

Nations have done this in the past, restricted travel. Quarantine. It doesn’t work. Viruses don’t care about borders.

Hiding from the disease won’t cure it.

And really? You’re listening to Donald Trump? About disease? Okay, sure, if he was maybe talking about catching a case of the Clap, but Ebola? C’mon.

"Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning," worries Georgia Congressman Phil Gingrey.

There are no, repeat no, cases of Ebola crossing the border in such a manner. None. The only “reports” of such are made up fever dreams manufactured whole cloth by those who profit from peddling fear to a terrified America. In fact, due to the nature of the disease and the process of illegal immigration itself, it would be almost impossible for someone infected with Ebola to enter the US in this way.

But then, a Southern Conservative painting brown people from Central America as dirty diseased vermin isn’t really anything new, is it?

Ebola just gives the old fearful racism a convenient cover.

"I don't know, but I think this Ebola epidemic is a form of population control. Shit is getting crazy bruh," tweeted rapper Chris Brown.

I don’t know. But I’m afraid anyway. I don’t know. But I’m sure they’re coming to get us. I don’t know. I don’t know.  But I’m scared, it’s getting crazy!

But then again, maybe Brown has a point:

 

That’s Todd Kincannon, former head of South Carolina's GOP, rabid pro-lifer, and morally superior right-wing God-warrior.

Kill ‘em all, let God sort it out.  Ain’t nothing more American than that kind of compassionate conservatism, eh?

Sorry about the napalm, Brown People, but we’ve got to look out for ourselves. You know how it is.

All the usual pundits, from Rush Limbaugh to Glenn Beck to Anne Coulter to Michael Savage have declared their firm belief that President Obama is going to deliberately infect the United States with Ebola in order to do … something something terrible death camps kill Whitey revenge something something OH NOES!  They’re not alone, Larry Klayman, conservative nutbar extraordinaire, filed a lawsuit against President Obama last week for “providing material support and aid to international terrorism and facilitating terrorism” by not implementing a travel ban on people from countries facing an Ebola outbreak.  Klayman is the non-veteran who led the “Million Veteran March” to the White House last year under the banner of the Confederate Battle Flag and demanded Obama’s surrender and trial by a self-appointed Citizen’s Grand Jury for something something terrible death camps kill Whitey revenge something something. 

If you’re terrified of being ebolanated, look around, these are the people you’re standing with.

Think about it.

You can disagree with the President, but if you believe even slightly that Obama is planning on infecting white people with Ebola in revenge for slavery so he can herd them into FEMA camps and turn America into Africa then you. Are. Fucking. Crazy.  You’re beyond booger eating stupid. You are a drooling racist moron so eaten up with fear that you’ve lost all ability to reason.  If you give people like Beck, Limbaugh, Coulter, Klayman, or the sorry excuse for what passes as news media nowadays any credence whatsoever, then you are nuts. You’re a paranoid frightened little pants wetter who can’t seem to understand that these people are literally fear-mongers in that they profit hugely from making you afraid, making America afraid. Fear. Paranoia. That’s their stock in trade. If you weren’t afraid, these people would have to get real jobs.

Here’s what it comes down to, Folks, this right here: There is always going to be some crisis. Always.

There is always going to be some crisis. That’s the nature of the world. 

There are always challenges to face.

There are always puzzles to solve.

There are always problems to overcome.  And when you solve them, there will be another, and another, and another. Forever.

That’s the nature of life.

The test of character is how you face those problems. 

The true test of character, for people, for nations, for civilization itself, is how you rise to the occasion.

Ebola isn’t the end of the world.

Ebola isn’t even an actual crisis, at least it doesn’t have to be.

Ebola is just another problem to solve.  And when we solve it, there will be another disease. And another after that.  There are a million things that may kill us, that’s just how it is.

We’ve faced far worse diseases, far worse problems, far worse threats, and we have risen to far greater challenges.

We are the United States of America. We’re Canada. We’re the United Kingdom. We’re France. We’re Germany. We’re Spain. We’re Mexico. We’re Russia.  

We’re ten thousand years of scientific advance. 

We’re the human race.

We are the species that makes other species extinct.

And it’s about time we remembered that.

You shouldn’t be afraid of Ebola, Ebola should be afraid of us.

We can beat Ebola.

And we will.

We can wipe it from the face of the earth, just like polio and small pox – diseases I’ll remind you that once killed far, far, far more people than Ebola ever has.  Those diseases are gone, or beaten into submission, we remain.

In this regard Ebola is a metaphor for larger, far more important things.

We can solve all the problems we face, disease, poverty, food, energy, all of it. And we don’t need divine intervention to do it.

We just have to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

We just have to stop being afraid all of the time.

 

Silly boy ya' self-destroyer!
Paranoia, the destroyer!
Self-destroyer, wreck your health
Destroy friends, destroy yourself
The time device of self-destruction
Light the fuse and start eruption
(Yea, it goes like this, here it goes)
Paranoia, the destroyer
(Here's to paranoia)
Paranoia, the destroyer
(Hey hey, here it goes)
Paranoia, the destroyer
(And it goes like this)
Paranoia, the destroyer
(And it goes like THIS!)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Whitewash

 

Here's what I don't get: Pluto.

More specifically, I don't get the argument over what to call it.

I’ve seen people nearly come to blows over Pluto.

And I just don’t get it.

Planet, minor planet, Kuiper Belt object, whatever.

I mean, if you're not an astronomer – that is: a vitamin D deficient long-hair who spends all night staring at a computer monitor filled with mathematical gibberish instead of watching reality TV like normal people – why do you care?

No, really, why do you care?

Go outside, look up. Where’s Pluto? You have no goddamned idea, do you?

It’s not something you need to deal with on a daily basis. Hell, it's not even in the bible, is it?

And let’s be honest, shall we? The closest most Americans get to astronomy is watching Dancing With The Stars and giggling over the pronunciation of Uranus.

So, I’ll ask again: why does anybody care what the hell science calls the damned rock?

Hell, Clyde Tombaugh could have just made the whole thing up...

 

What?

 

Clyde. Clyde Tombaugh. American astronomer. The guy who “discovered” Pluto back in 1930. You know, Clyde Tombaugh. I mean, you're all over the whole Pluto thing, right? Probably have Clyde's swimsuit poster on your bedroom wall. Oh, sure, Clyde. Clyde Tombaugh. Big fan. Saw the movie with Brad Pitt as the Tomster, that’s the one with the sparkly vampire zombie Nazis, right?

Right.

Tombaugh could have made it up. Sure he could have.  And how would you know? Pluto, it’s just a spot on a photographic plate. I'm mean, who verified this? Other astronomers? Oh, and we believe them, do we? We won't take science's word for for evolution, climate change, Bigfoot, oh hell no – but Pluto? Science, totally real, Dude, totally.

A couple years back the little world, which Americans can’t see and never think about, was demoted from planet to not-planet.

And we lost our shit over it.

What? They demoted Pluto? Oh, now it’s on!

It’s a wonder astronomers weren’t dragged from the universities and burned alive.

Politicians and pundits weighed in with ponderous gravity. Congress milled about in various orbits of outrage and actually considered a bill mandating the little frozen ice ball be declared a Full Planet in law if not in fact. Ironic, I guess, that we can’t agree people are equal, but, man, we’re all about civil rights for planets, Goddamnit – I mean, think about it, what if Pluto turns out to be black? Or gay? Would you still want it to marry your sister? I mean, come on, folks, think it through, it’s not rocket science … ur, okay, maybe it is, but I think I’ve made my point here.

The web was aflame with pitched battles. People were all, "Oh I've always been a huge Pluto fan! Favorite planet ever, man, love how they named it after the Disney character, yo!"

And it's still going on.

Somebody asked me about it just the other day: say, Jim, where do you come down on this whole Pluto demotion issue? I sure hope you're not one of them "minor world" guys.

Hey now, I replied, some of my best friends are dwarf planets…

Here in the nation of the perpetually outraged and offended, Pluto’s status is just another thing to be outraged and offended about. What? What's that? They've demoted Pluto? Why those dirty SONS OF BITCHES! In my day we had nine planets! Nine! But now? Everything is going to shit. Thanks, Obama!

As if we're all somehow diminished as human beings, as Americans, if Pluto isn't a planet.

Eight? Eight planets? Just eight planets? But, but, but, what if other solar systems have MORE THAN US? WHAT THEN? WE CAN'T HAVE LESS PLANETS THAN ALPHA CENTAURI FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, WE'LL BE THE LAUGHING STOCK OF THE UNIVERSE! ALIENS WILL THINK WE’VE GOT LITTLE DICKS! WE'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING!

Honestly, what's next? We gonna put some big chrome stacks on Jupiter and hang a giant pair of Truck Nutz on Neptune?

 

You’re wondering where I’m going with this, aren’t you?

 

Columbus Day.

That’s where I’m going. Columbus Day.

Pluto. Columbus Day. How could you not see that coming?

Honestly, it’s like you people don’t know me at all.

Today is Columbus Day in America.

It’s a bullshit minor holiday that’s mostly just an excuse for federal employees to get a paid day off.

Because, you know, that’s what we need, another reason for Congress to take a long weekend. Not like there’s a big backlog of legislation or anything, right?

I mean, what exactly are the ancient traditions associated with this holiday?

Look, I’m not unpatriotic, I know my American history, sure, I know the part about going to Wal-Mart for “Columbus Day Blow Out Deals.” I’m not a total Philistine. But I’m a little hazy on the religious aspects. Do we gather together at Grandma’s house, she’ll make her famous deep fried ham stuffed with firecrackers and syphilis, the kids will carve a Plymouth Rock from gingerbread while Uncle Phil gets plastered and manages to light his balls on fire again from shooting bottle-rockets out of his ass in the backyard, we’ll watch the big Macy’s Columbus Day parade in new york where men dressed as Conquistadors wade ashore from floats that look like Spanish galleons in search of gold and slaves under the baleful copper gaze of Lady Liberty, then we’ll all meet down at the church for the traditional Columbus Day Prayer Of Peace and Togetherness? Are there little construction paper war bonnets? Fireworks? Do we get to nail somebody to a cross? Is there a gift exchange? Tell me there’s at least going to be a giant male rabbit who shits foil covered chocolate eggs. Something.

But, of course, there’s none of that.

So far as I can tell, the primary Columbus Day tradition involves shouting variations of the phrase:  “Oh what the fuck? Why is the post office closed?

Folks, Columbus Day is the Pluto of American holidays.

Most Americans have no idea where this stupid “holiday” came from and most of the time they couldn’t care less.  Columbus, he’s the guy who discovered America, right? He was like the first American … or was that George Jefferson? I forget, anyway, off to Wal-Mart, gotta make a beer run before Dancin’ Wit Da Starz comes on.

I mean, come on.

Columbus day? Really?

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.
A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.
Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.
Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.
Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.
October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!
"Indians!  Indians!"  Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.
But "India" the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.
The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.
Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he'd been told.
He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.
The first American?  No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.

Except it turns out almost all of that is, literally, whitewashed bullshit.

Columbus was an asshole, even his friends thought so – what few friends he had.  He routinely screwed his own crew out of money that he’d promised them and gloated about it, rubbing their faces in it. When his men threatened to mutiny (which happened repeatedly because Columbus was a shitty leader), he handed out pre-pubescent native girls as compensation, after enslaving their parents. He justified genocide by reasoning that so long as he didn’t let anybody convert the natives, he wasn’t killing Christians so God had to be good with it.  They used to say you could navigate between Europe and the New World without a compass, all you had to do was follow the trail of dead Indians floating behind Columbus’ ships.  He ruled Hispaniola as a brutal tyrant, see, Columbus wasn’t exactly keen on democracy and liberty – though he was a big fan of gold. 

Christopher Columbus didn’t discover the United States. He wasn’t even close to the first European to reach the shores of the New World. And he certainly wasn’t an American, he was an Italian sailing under a Spanish flag. He never set foot on what is nowadays American soil.  He made his voyages nearly 300 years before the United States even existed.

Most Americans couldn’t tell you much of anything about Christopher Columbus beyond the silly fairytale of that child’s nursery rhyme  – let alone anything about the actual man who called himself Cristóbal Colón.

What? What’s that you say? Oh, c’mon now, Jim? What are you, some kind of America hater? Why Christopher Columbus was a genuine American hero. You’re just repeating liberal lies. Besides, who really knows what happened back then?

Yeah, except for the part where Columbus himself documented his atrocities in his own logs and diaries in full detail – and it’s not me who whitewashed history.

In fact, Columbus Day as a federal holiday is a relatively recent invention created whole cloth by people who are largely ignorant of and tone-deaf to actual American history.

But just like Pluto, bring up demoting Columbus’ place in the Pantheon of American Fairytales and watch the spittle start to fly – as if we, as Americans, will somehow be diminished if we don’t have a largely ignored holiday named after a genocidal tyrant who died two and half centuries before our country was even founded.

And you want to know what the really funny part is?

Do you?

Because I’ll tell you.  See, the people most adamant about the sanctity of Columbus Day? Yeah, those Americans? They’re the very same people, the very same people almost name for name, who want English declared the official language of the United States and who demand that the southern border be secured with a wall a hundred feet high specifically to keep out Christopher Columbus’ Spanish speaking descendants.

Now, how’s that for irony?

Listen, you know what will happen to America if Pluto is allowed to remain a minor planet?

Nothing.

Likewise, you know what will happen to our nation if we dump Columbus Day?

Nothing.

Listen to me, you want a day off in October?

Then how about a holiday that includes us all?

How about a day that celebrates our great accomplishments as a nation? How about history and events we don’t have to whitewash? 

How about a holiday where we Americans celebrate our great accomplishments, our moments of exploration and discovery?

We can talk about the first peoples to arrive here chasing wooly mammoths 25,000 years ago. We can celebrate the native cultures that once dominated this continent – the ones we name our rivers and states and sports teams after. We can talk about the Viking longships that explored our shores long before Columbus – and hell, we can even talk about The Great Navigator himself, if we want. Then let us celebrate and remember those moments in time where we Americans, all of us, came together in wonder and awe. Let us remember our voyages of discovery and exploration and hope. From the Nome Serum Run to the California Gold Rush, from Kitty Hawk to the footprints in Mare Tranquilities, Columbia and Challenger and Apollo One, to Voyager and Curiosity and beyond.

We’ll open the museums and the history books and teach our children what it is to be an American - and maybe one day we will again became a nation and a people who look outward instead of staring into our own festering bellybuttons.

Let’s call it Clyde Tombaugh Day.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Self Abuse

 

image

 

Freedom.

Liberty.

Inalienable rights.

We Americans are big on these things, aren’t we?

We like to thump our fleshy chests and proclaim our superiority over other, lesser nations.  Oh, well, sure, yes, you might have higher standards of living, longer average lifespans, lower infant mortality rates, a higher percentage of education, higher median income, universal healthcare, a functioning government, insignificant gun violence, a drastically lower percentage of incarceration, okay, sure, you’ve got those things, fine, but America has freeeeeeeeedom! And that makes us exceptional – not that any significant fraction of us can spell exceptionalism or find the United States on a map, but trust me, we’ve got you beat.

And you know why? Freedom, that’s why.

See, freedom in America is different from freedom elsewhere.

In America, freedom means rights without responsibility. 

In America, freedom means the right to the most vile of hate speech without consequence or penalty.

In America, freedom means the right to publish provable falsehoods and gibbering panic and drooling conspiracy theories as fact for profit.

In America, freedom means the right to utterly ignore science and just substitute in whatever magic fairy dust you like regardless of the consequences to future generations.

In America, freedom means the right to violent religious extremism without restriction of any kind, tax free in fact.

In America, freedom means the right to beat the drums of war without having to go yourself, or send your children.

In America, freedom means the right to gather together under the guise of political assembly and openly plot to take away the freedoms and the liberty of those with different political beliefs, or religions, or skin colors, or sexual orientations.

In America, freedom means the right to profit hugely without taxation, to take without return, to destroy entire industries without a second thought, to pollute the environment without personal consequence, to grow wealthy beyond dreams while impoverishing millions of your fellows, to benefit enormously from the nation’s protection and prestige without having to give back in any way.

Why, here in America we are so free that we can openly engage in war against our own nation.

That’s right.

We can wallow in our sullen liberty like fat feral hogs in the mud while complaining bitterly that we don’t have enough.

In America, that’s what we call freedom.

Why, here in America, we can actually point guns at our own government and threaten to shoot down our neighbors, and we can do it free of any consequence … and others will inevitably rally to our cause in the name of liberty.

Here in America we can publicly declare war on our own nation, engage in open sedition and treason writ large, offer a reward for the capture and execution of our own democratically elected president, publicly promote the overthrow of the very Constitution which guarantees our freedoms, and loudly declare our intention for violent installation of a religious theocracy made of up of extremists who would execute and imprison any American who does not subscribe to this murderous lunacy.

We Americans put up with a lot of nonsense in the supposed name of liberty.

We put up with raging hate, blatant bigotry,  threats of violence, obvious insanity, and foamy spittle-flecked ignorant stupidity - all because we're afraid that if we restrict those things in even the slightest way, if we hold the perpetrators to account to even the smallest degree, well then we won't know where to draw the line and then we'll end up under the jackboot of tyranny.

By way of example, meet the Christian Taliban of the Facebook Group Reward For Capture of Obama.

The group, founded by one Reverend Everest Wilhelmsen, is your standard issue howling mob of frothy Birthers, stubbornly clinging to their guns and bibles and thoroughly discredited conspiracy theories. More, Wilhelmsen is openly using social media to solicit donations for the overthrow of the government of the United States. The group openly, publicly, offers a reward for the “capture” and “arrest” of President Obama.

These people, led by Everest Wilhelmsen, have declared war on the United States.

For all practical purposes, Wilhelmsen is indistinguishable from the Ayatollahs who burned down their country’s legitimate government and set about arresting and executing those that didn’t agree with their particular murderous fanaticism.

If you want to know what America under the control of Evangelical Christianity will look like, you need look no further than Iran – change the names and the God, and the bloody intolerant rest remains the same.

This week, Wilhelmsen added a caveat to his group page, asking people not to post overtly racists comments – despite the fact that the entire page is a study in unhinged xenophobia writ large and designed specifically to pander directly to racists, bigots, haters, and fanatics.

A rather large number of people, including myself, have complained to Facebook about Reward for Capture Of Obama. I specifically reported the group for hate speech. Reward For Capture of Obama is not freedom of speech, it is abuse of the 1st Amendment and it is sedition. These people are not just talking, they are actively soliciting funds for the stated purpose of overthrowing the government. This group is hate for hate’s sake and nothing more – and I would point out that I would respond in exactly the same way if Wilhelmsen was calling for the capture and arrest of George W. Bush.

Facebook responded to my complaint via the boilerplate above.

“Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment.”

A what now? A safe and welcoming environment, you say? Oh, so is that what Reward For Capture of Obama is? Safe and welcoming?

“…and we found that it doesn’t violate our community standards.”

Racism. Xenophobia. Bigotry. Sedition. These things don’t violate our standards.

But a picture of a mother breastfeeding? That does, right? Facebook will take that down in a second and suspend your account. But proclaim your intention to overthrow the US government by force of arms and violent revolution and kill the president? And Facebook is good. Freedom, you know.

Facebook is so afraid of offending the religious right, and likely with good reason, that they will turn a blind eye to open sedition.

 

And that, right there, is the perfect metaphor for America.

 

We’re willing to put up with any degree of rage, hate, and insanity, up to and including allowing crazy people to buy guns and use them to shoot down our children in their own homes and theaters and schools, we will stand by and let raging madmen like Everest Wilhelmsen openly call for the destruction of our nation, just to prove we’ve got more freeeeeedom than everybody else.

 

 

In the name of freedom, we allow the racist haters of the KKK and the Neo-Nazis to march down the middle of our streets and terrorize our citizens.

In the name of liberty, we allow the insane fanatics of Westboro Baptist Church to scream their twisted hatred at the funerals of our loved ones and our fallen soldiers.

In the name of democracy we allow the ideologues and the political fanatics in Congress to deadlock our government, repeatedly bring our nation to a standstill, refuse to do their jobs, and threaten the entire world economy, all in the name of soundly debunked conspiracy theories and rabid unhinged yellow-eyed hate.

In the name of the Constitution, we allow the traitorous dishonorable scumbags of the Oath Keepers to march on the White House flying that goddamned Confederate Battle Flag, the very symbol of racism and the ensign of those who vigorously tried to destroy the United States, and we listen while they demand the president be dragged from the Oval Office and hung before a kangaroo court.

Within our own Capital Building, Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado, has openly admitted to sedition.

He not only admits it, he’s proud of it.

Lamborn, in his own words proudly revealed that he and his fellow Republicans are attempting to turn the US military against their own Commander in Chief,

“A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation.’”

Think about that, really think about that.

You have a sitting US Congressman – along with “a lot of us” – actively encouraging mutiny within the ranks of our military.

Lamborn and those unnamed republicans he refers to are openly encouraging nothing less than the defection of senior officers during time of war

Lamborn says he wants America’s generals to “go out in a blaze of glory.”

Lamborn specifically says he encouraged military officers to resign in protest of the orders from their civilian leadership.  To quit instead of obeying the president as they are sworn to do – as I, a commissioned officer, swore to do.  Do you, as Americans, understand what that means? Can you fully grasp the implications of Lamborn’s treason? In America, the elected civilian Executive commands the military for very, very good reasons, reasons fundamental to the very fabric of our nation

Lamborn would turn the generals of America into the political wannabe emperor Generals of Rome – and he is either too goddamned stupid to realize what he’s saying or he is a traitor to everything this country stands for.

This is not, repeat not, the actions of the loyal opposition.

There is nothing loyal about it.

Lamborn is a traitor.

Should the generals actually follow his exhortations to abdicate their sworn duty, then Lamborn is giving aid and comfort to the enemy, he is deliberately providing the enemy a strategic advantage by dividing the American military against itself solely to profit his political party.

Congressman Lamborn is a fucking traitor. A seditious scumbag. A dishonorable conniving coward whose own sworn oath is worth about as much as the Republican Contract with America.

Lamborn is a traitor.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Lamborn’s own words, his own free admission, by definition, is sedition.

Naturally, when his mutinous remarks were made public, Lamborn did what all those of his pusillanimous ilk do when cornered, he claimed his treason was taken “out of context.”

And you’ll note he didn’t resign.

And that, right there, is the very epitome of these cowards.

They’ll rage and rant for others to give up their lives in the name of some cause, but they piss their pants at the thought of having to make good themselves. Every. Single. Time.

Lamborn is a traitor.

Lamborn is a coward.

Lamborn is an utter disgrace to the very institution he is sworn to uphold.

Folks, there is no context, none, in which Congressman Lamborn’s admission is not that of a coward, a traitor, and a seditious mutineer.

In any other nation, he would be jailed at the very least and tried for his seditious actions, in many places he would be dragged out back and he’d have a bullet put through his skull without a trial.

But in America? Well, open sedition from a sitting US Congressman in time of war, sowing discord and disloyalty in the ranks for political ideology? In America that’s what we call liberty.

Meanwhile, yet another of these “patriots,” former congressman Tom Tancredo, Republican from Colorado, called again for House Republicans to impeach the President. 

Because, yeah, we just aren’t getting the part where Republicans hate Obama. 

In an OpEd last weekend in (where else?) World Net Daily, Tancredo opined that the GOP should “call the White House’s bluff and proceed with impeachment.”

Republicans, those Great Americans* who claim to revere the Constitution as holy writ handed down by God Himself, eschew the actual requirements spelled out in that same document and instead define the criteria for impeachment as “anybody not a member of our ideology – and maybe even some of those too.”

The conservative definition of democracy is increasingly indistinguishable from the kind of “democracy” practiced in the old Soviet Union and nowadays in North Korea – i.e. you can vote for whoever you like, so long as it’s us. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Tancredo warns that if Republicans are afraid to impeach Obama, then “the war is already lost and we should all stock our ammunition shelves and join a militia.”

Like Wilhelmsen, like Lamborn, like far, far too many conservatives today, Tancredo believes that democracy is when if you don’t get your way, you just get to shoot down the people you don’t like and install your own government by forcing people to vote for your party, your candidate, the people you approve of.  That’s the kind of America they think they want.

But you see, freedom doesn't come free of responsibility.

In the end, one way or the other, there is always an accounting.

It’s long past time we, as a nation, as a people, stopped tolerating this nonsense.

These lunatics need to be held accountable for their unending mindless hate, for their willful and contagious insanity, for their seditious attempts to turn this country into a xenophobic religious theocracy, and for abusing the rights our ancestors gave their very lives for.

I believe in freedom of speech as much as the next guy. I served my country for over twenty years in uniform, I fought her wars and defended her shores because I believe in that freedom along with all the others we Americans take for granted every day.

But I believe rights have limits.

I believe freedom comes with responsibility.

I believe we are a nation, a society, a civilization. We are not a howling mob.

These people are not patriots.

They are not the loyal opposition.

They are cowards and traitors and anarchists.

They are the barbarians at the gate, who would burn down civilization and shit gleefully in the ruins.

The Constitution may require the government to tolerate this cancer in our midst, but we, we rational and sane Americans, we do not have to put up with it.

And it’s long past time we start holding this madness to account.

 

And you can start doing exactly that come this November.



* The term “Great American” is used in this context in a manner identical to the term “Great Russian” in the old Soviet Union.  And yes, I mean it to be exactly as insulting as it sounds. // Jim