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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Road to Hell

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.
- William Shakespeare

 

It’s even worse than we thought.

It is, isn’t it?

If you’ve read the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence’s Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program, the executive summary of which was released yesterday, you know it’s even worse than we thought.

The torture, I mean.

Of course, we knew that our government tortured people. We knew that. That’s no secret. They told us. And we Americans? We let them do it and a lot of us cheered them on – certainly not all of us, maybe not even a majority, but enough.

And why not torture? No really, why the hell not?

After what our enemies did to us, after the crime they committed, after the carnage they wrought, were we not justified in any measure?

We wanted blood.

We wanted revenge and we had a right to that payback did we not?

We wanted to make them suffer, those filthy pig humping sons of bitches, the ones that dared attack the United States. The ones who killed our people.

We wanted them to grovel before our towering righteous wrath.

We wanted to grind their God into dust, to crush their primitive religion, to erase their murderous philosophy from the face of the earth. Our God, our religion, our philosophy, our way of life, is better is it not? Are we not exceptional, we Americans? Are we not morally superior? Well?

So why shouldn’t we torture the bastards? Why shouldn’t we destroy them? Is that not our duty? Didn’t our parents and grandparents go forth and hunt down the Nazis and the Bushido Warriors of the Rising Sun and wipe them out? Hell, our grandfathers vaporized two entire cities full of murderous terrorists, what’s a little torture compared to that? And do we not hail the people who dropped the bombs as The Greatest Generation? Can we do any less? Can we?

We wanted the people who attacked us to die, just as we had died when the towers fell, just as we had died in the wreckage of the burning Pentagon and in the cornfields outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

More than anything, we wanted them to be afraid.

Just like they had made us afraid.

They aren’t human, these enemies. That’s what we tell ourselves, isn’t it? They’re not human, they’re not men. That’s how we justified it. They’re pigs. Dogs. Towel heads. Camel jockeys. Ragheads. Hajis. Sand niggers. Vermin. They are terrorists and nothing more. So what does it matter if we torture them?

They deserve no mercy.

They are entitled to no rights.

But even then – even then – we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to admit what we were doing, could we?  We couldn’t quite admit what we Americans allowed to be done in our names. So we called it “enhanced interrogation” and “coercive methods” and “rendition” instead of “torture.” And we said those words in the same fashion that we Americans used to say “separate but equal” to describe our apartheid.

When Congress wrote the Patriot Act and the Protect America Act, when the President gave the order, when the Director of the CIA issued his directives, they couldn’t use euphemisms. They couldn’t hide from it, no, they had to spell it out in all its ugly truth.  That’s why they made those sections of the law, those orders and directives, classified. That’s why it’s taken more than a decade for this report.

 

When the Bush administration classified what we were actually doing, when they used the words “enhanced interrogation,” they did it not to hide torture from our enemies, but to hide it from us.

 

You might want to give that some thought.

You see, that’s why those interrogation tapes were destroyed by the CIA.

Because when you see a man being waterboarded, well then you just can’t hide from it anymore. When you see, really see, those images, well, there’s only one word for it.

When you stop hiding behind the euphemisms, you are faced with the brutal ugly dishonorable truth.

Torture.

That’s what we’re talking about here, torture, and make no mistake.

The United States of America is a nation that tortures its enemies, its prisoners, its own citizens, and the innocent – oh, yes, that’s correct, we tortured prisoners that later turned out to be innocent.  But then again, given our track record vis a vis the death penalty, I suppose nobody should be surprised.

We Americans, we knew what was going on, at least in broad strokes, sure we did.  And we were willing to turn a blind eye to it, reluctantly or enthusiastically, but we were. Yes, we were and don’t you think otherwise. Because the men who gave those orders, the men who tortured others, and the men who stood by and watched them do it without protest even though they knew it was wrong, well those men are all still walking around free, aren’t they? They’ve never, ever, been held to account in even the slightest way.

Some Americans even think they are heroes.

But, hang on a minute. Torture works. We got good actionable intelligence from torture.

Didn’t we?

No, no. Stop right there. That’s hokum. Torture doesn’t work. You can’t depend on any information you get using torture.

Right?

That’s what we’re arguing about today: whether or not torture works.

That’s the basis of today’s argument in Washington. That’s what the TV pundits and the politicians are arguing about. For a lot of Americans, that’s what it comes down to: whether or not torture works.

That’s the conservative argument, torture works, therefore it’s moral. It’s justified. So long as you call it “enhanced interrogation.”

That’s the liberal argument, torture doesn’t work, therefore it’s immoral. It’s not justified, no matter what you call it.

On one side you’ve got people like former vice-president Dick Cheney who is unapologetic in his unswerving support of torture.

Yes, conservatives say, torture is bad and ugly, but it’s necessary in defense of freedom. These guys, these terrorists, they’re hardcore. If we don’t use every means necessary, if we take any option off the table, the terrorists win.

They ask in dire tones: What if – what if – torture is the only way to prevent another 9/11, another Pearl Harbor, or worse.

Much, much worse.

What if the terrorists had a nuke? What then?

I’ve seen this argument a thousand times in the last decade, I’m sure you have too. Maybe you’ve even made it.

What if?

That’s the ultimate justification, that’s why we must keep torture on the table, that’s why we must get them to talk, that’s why we must get the information by any means necessary.

It always comes down to this trump card, the one nobody wants to argue with: What if?

“What if the terrorists had your family? What if they had an atom bomb hidden in a city with your family strapped to it and you caught one of those bastards and there was only an hour left and there was no time to evacuate and millions were going die? Including your family! Huh? What about that? Are you saying you wouldn’t do whatever was necessary to get that information? I bet you would!”

You’re right, I would.

I, me personally? I would do whatever it took, including torture, if that was the only way to save the city, if that was the only way to save my family, if that was the only way to save you. As a military officer, yes, I would. Absolutely. I wouldn’t order my men to do it, I’d do it myself. I shove a hose up the bastard’s nose and turn on the water. I’d shoot out his knees. I’d cut off his balls. You bet. If that’s what it took. I’d do it without hesitation.

And I’d do it knowing I was breaking the law, and I would expect to be tried for the crime and sent to prison.

I would.

Because even if I saved the day, I’d be wrong. 

Good intentions do not justify evil.

A just cause does not justify injustice. No more than if I donned a cape and tights and drove around Gotham in the night killing criminals without trial or due process.

Think about something: what if we let police search you and your property without a warrant? What if law enforcement was allowed to randomly come into your house or place of business and go through your closets and your hard drive and your car?  If you’re not doing anything wrong, you’ve really got nothing to worry about right? You can trust the cops not to abuse this power, can’t you? I mean, sure it would be inconvenient, but isn’t that a fair trade for the decrease in crime? Sure as hell, the cops would find drugs and porn and stolen goods and people who cheat on their taxes and abuse their spouses.

So why don’t we allow that?

No, think about it. Why do we require the police to get warrants before searching private property? Why did they put that into the Constitution?

Same thing.

If I tortured a terrorist, even if I saved the city, even if I was a hero, I’d still be wrong.

I’d still face trial, I’d likely go to jail.

And that is precisely what should happen.

The morality of this supposed situation is a choice for human beings. It is a moral choice for men, for women, for individuals.

The morality of nations is something else entirely.

Morality is a choice for people, not governments.

Torture, no matter how pure the motive is against everything this country stands for. Everything.

The men who founded this country, who designed our government, they knew this. But, they were not fools. They knew the pitfalls of absolutism and inflexible law.  They knew that they couldn’t make the Constitution too rigid, or the new United States would rapidly outgrow it. So they made it fairly general except in the areas that they knew needed rigid and specific limits, such as habeas corpus and individual rights.

The Founders weren’t stupid, they were in fact brilliant, and they could play the “what if? game too.

So, they built in safeguards.

If I torture a terrorist into confessing the location of the bomb and I saved the city, I’d still be wrong. I’d expect to go to jail.

And that, my friends, is exactly what a presidential pardon is for.

It’s not to pardon corrupt politicians. It’s not to pardon the rich and connected. It’s not to clean the slates of hacks and flacks and flunkies and contributors and lobbyists. And it is most certainly not to pardon those who would turn us into our own enemies through abuse of power.

The Presidential Pardon is a safeguard built into the framework of our nation as a relief valve for exactly this type of situation.

While there may be times when brutal action might be justified by personal choice (that is the basis of most of our heroic action movies, isn’t it? And the source of that strawman nuclear bomb scenario above), the same should never be an option for government.

As I have written elsewhere, once the enemy becomes a prisoner and no longer has a means to resist, we become solely responsible for his or her life, well being, and treatment, both by our own code of conduct and by international agreement.

Now certainly it may be extremely difficult to treat a terrorist who tried to destroy your nation and your loved ones humanely.

Certainly. No sane person disputes that. I’ve taken prisoners in defense of my country, trust me on this, it’s goddamned hard.

However that, that right there, is the very definition of moral courage.

You cannot lay claim to the moral high ground if you engage in the same brutality as your enemies.

If the United States of America insists on calling itself exceptional, then it must be the exception.  And there is nothing exceptional about torture, it is all too horribly common in the world. The United States holds up as its greatest triumphs the defeat of tyranny great and small, from the Nazis and the Empire of Japan to Baby Doc Duvalier to Manuel Noriega to Saddam Hussein.  And those who rage and bellow, who invoke the name of their God and their sandaled prophet to decry the supposed moral decline of modern America, are the very ones who today cheer the immorality of torture most vigorously.

That’s something they might need to talk to their God about.

On the other side of the argument are those who decry torture as ineffective.

They’re wrong. Or rather they’re not right, not quite.

Torture isn’t one size fits all.  Some folks start talking the minute they’re captured. Some will resist to the bitter end. But all human beings have breaking points. Pour enough water up their noses, rip out enough fingernails, pump enough electricity through their testicles or vagina, rape them over and over, break their bones, shove a red hot poker up their ass, stack them in naked meat pyramids, lock them in a sensory deprivation tank until they go insane, shoot their kids in front of them, sooner or later they’ll tell you whatever you want to hear. 

The thing is, they have to believe you mean it.

You can’t just put an empty gun against their head and pull the trigger, they have to believe you’re fully willing to kill them. 

It’s not enough to pour water up their nose, they have to believe, believe, that you’re willing to let them drown to get what you want. Your enemies, the ones in your custody and the ones still out there, they have to believe that you’re willing to go all the way.

For torture to work, you can’t just pretend to be a torturer, you actually have to be a torturer.

For Americans, because we are who we are, torture is mostly an ineffective means of gathering information. Mostly. But not completely. And so there’s always the counter: we can’t take it off the table, because if it works, even once, when everything is on the line, well, then it’s justified.

And that’s the pitfall.

See, let’s just say that torture is a reliable and effective means of interrogation. It’s not, but for the sake of argument let’s say it is.

So?

Theft is an effective means of making a living.

Murder is an effective means of winning an argument.

Abortion is an effective means of ending a pregnancy. 

Terrorism is an effective means of conveying a political point.

Follow me? 

Again, if you’re going to lay claim to the moral high ground, then you’d better walk the walk or you’re nothing but a miserable hypocrite and no better than your enemies.  

In the days before we became torturers,  before September 11th, 2001, the CIA, the FBI, they had all the information necessary to stop that attack – and they got that information without torture, without compromising our values, without becoming our enemies. 

But they failed to act on it.

The problem wasn’t a lack of information, the problem was a failure of intelligence. We had the information, but our intelligence organizations refused to work together and to share that information – and they still do.

Torture won’t change that, in fact, the techniques and classification of information gained via torture ensures that the information will be tightly controlled and not shared among those who could make best use of it. Again, I was a professional intelligence officer, trust me on this, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Over and over and over.

The problem wasn’t that we couldn’t get our enemies to talk, the problem was that those in authority, congress, the Bush Administration, the intelligence community, refused to listen – and they still do.

The effectiveness or ineffectiveness of torture matters not at all. It’s a red herring.

It doesn’t matter if you're right or wrong about the effectiveness of torture.

It doesn’t matter if your motives are patriotic and your heart is pure.

It doesn’t matter if your cause is just.

It doesn’t matter how terrible your enemy.

Listen to me, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man of God, if you molest a child, you’re a goddamned child molester.

And it comes down to this: If you engage in torture, you're a torturer.

And you live in a country that tortures people.

It’s really just that simple.



“The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today. The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called ‘universal jurisdiction.’ Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.”
-
Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, 1984
Address to the Nation upon signing the UN Convention On Torture

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Second Coming of Walter Winchell

“We know who this Saudi national is. We know who this man is and, listen to me carefully, we know he is a very bad, bad, bad man.”
- Glenn Beck, via The Blaze, May, 2013

 

Well, well, there’s a big surprise.

The self-appointed spokesman for libertarian personal responsibility fails to take responsibility for his own thoroughly debunked bullshit and the massive damage he did to another human being.

Then he tries to hide behind the protection of the government he despises.

Ain’t that just typical?

And, no, I did not in point of fact raise a surprised eyebrow at the news.

That’s exactly what I expect.

Exactly.

These people, they complain piteously about the sad state of journalistic integrity while spinning fantastic conspiracy theories solely in order to justify their own bitter insanity and their blatant bigotry and their yellow-eyed hate. 

They put responsibility for their own misery and bile on everybody but themselves.

They wave Atlas Shrugged as if it were Holy Writ instead of a poorly written long out-of-date science fiction novel penned by a deluded hack.

They claim the moral high ground and decry “takers” and “the lazy” and the “immoral” and the “irresponsible.” 

But – but – when shown beyond any shadow of a doubt that they are wrong, utterly wrong, wrong in every way it is possible to be wrong, they shrug off any responsibility and never admit error.

Then without fail and with 100% predictability they blame others for their own mistakes and their own false statements.

And then they shamelessly move right on to the next conspiracy.

And nobody is a better example of this staggering hypocrisy than Tea Party poster child Glenn Beck.

In the smoldering aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, investigators briefly looked at Saudi national Abdul Rahman al Harbi, who was near the finish line when the bombs went off.

Al Harbi was injured in the attack. His wounds were relatively minor and he was immediately available for questioning. Police spent nine hours interviewing Al Harbi in his hospital bed.  He cooperated fully and federal agents quickly dismissed him as a suspect in the terrorist attack.

Every single piece of evidence since that moment bears out Al Harbi's innocence.

Every single piece of evidence.

Every single piece.

Every one.

There is no question whatsoever that Abdul Rahman al Harbi is innocent of any involvement in the Boston Marathon Bombing.

Like any of a hundred thousand others that day, al Harbi was just another face in the crowd. He was just another bystander come to enjoy the day and who was caught up in the middle of a heinous crime.

But Glenn Beck didn't see it that way.

Glenn Beck, without access to any actual evidence of any kind, looked upon al Harbi’s olive skin and decided that the man must be a terrorist.

Beck declared that al Harbi was not only involved, but that he was the mastermind of the entire thing. A genuine Al Qaida terrorist and the guy who bankrolled the bombing.

Beck spun one conspiracy theory after another, each more sibilant and desperate than the last.

Beck used all the resources of his vast media empire to wage a personal assault against al Harbi.

Beck designated himself a qualified investigator with access to information only he could know. He became judge, jury, and America’s self-appointed executioner. And he sent his legion of mindless haters after al Harbi en masse.

Which is ironic, given Glenn Beck’s relentless and teary-eyed love for the US Constitution – you know, the document which forms the foundation of American law and in which is enshrined the ideal of justice and liberty and innocence until proven guilty.  I’m not sure how a lynching fits into Glenn Beck’s interpretation of America, but then I’m not insane. 

And then, because in Glenn Beck’s world all roads always and inevitably lead to Obama, Beck declared that the President had conspired to bomb Boston. Beck knitted together bits and pieces, layering fevered conspiracy on top of wild-eyed hysteria like a mental patient weaving random delusions into his nightmare world. Beck became so caught up in his own insanity that he issued an ultimatum to Obama: admit your complicity or I’ll expose you on my show.

Beck gave Obama three days.

Unsurprisingly, in the midst of national crisis, the president didn’t so much as acknowledge Glenn Beck even existed.

Beck then spun out his infamous “212 3B” theory, telling anyone who would listen how the President of the United States was engaged in a massive cover-up. Beck claimed Obama had conspired with the Saudis to blow up Boston because something something Muslims ook okk Bigfoot blert blert New World Order buy gold!

Beck even claimed that Al Harbi had met with President Obama in the Oval Office.

And then came the clincher, Beck claimed he had irrefutable “evidence” Al Harbi was about to be deported under US Code section 212 3B for “terrorist activities.” 

Since Obama hadn’t responded, Beck gleefully issued a challenge to the rest of America: Prove me wrong. Go on. You’ll just just embarrass yourselves!

Beck was in his element. His idiot audience was blood maddened and howling for a good witch burning. The guy Beck accused was a nobody, a foreigner with a funny sounding name who couldn’t fight back and his guilt was a foregone conclusion. There were plenty of dead and horribly maimed Americans, all Beck had to do was hate on Obama and Muslims and wave the flag with a tear in his eye and the money poured in. Beck gorged on it, like a feral hog nose deep in rancid slop, oblivious to the lives he was destroying in the process, and utterly oblivious to the terror he himself inflicted on the innocent.

Unfortunately for Glenn Beck, somebody took his challenge.

That somebody was retired Immigration and Naturalization Service Special Agent Bob Trent, who in a few short minutes on Beck’s show completely dismantled Beck’s conspiracy theory. Live on the air, Trent effortlessly demonstrated that Beck’s entire theory was based solely on Beck’s ignorant misunderstanding of the actual law.

Beck was wrong.

Completely wrong.

Wrong in every way it is possible to be wrong.

Al Harbi was, is, no terrorist. He was not “about to be deported.” He was just a student, studying in America.

And, as I mentioned above, every single piece of evidence gathered in the Boston Marathon Bombing has supported Al Harbi’s innocence.

Glenn Beck’s personal crusade fell apart the night he interviewed Special Agent Trent.

And, true to form, he stopped talking about it.

He never apologized.

He never admitted that he was wrong.

He never admitted he’d been made a fool of.

He just moved on to other conspiracies and other victims and the depth of this man’s hypocrisy never ceases to amaze me. Beck claims to own Iva Toguri’s microphone, the one she used as Tokyo Rose during WWII. Beck called Toguri a hero and even wrote a book about her, decrying post WWII media personalities who painted Toguri as a terrorist and as an enemy of America and who would have had her executed if they could have pulled it off. I myself wrote about Beck’s obsession with Toguri in detail, and as I said then, while Toguri was certainly a tragic figure, calling her a “hero” might be stretching the definition of that word to the breaking point. That said, and whatever your opinion of Tokyo Rose, Beck is willing to hoist Iva Toguri up onto the plinth of American heroes while himself waged a personal campaign in the media to crucify an innocent man.

Abdul Rahman al Harbi’s life was destroyed by Glenn Beck.

He was wounded when the bombs went off, but the injuries inflicted on his life by the murderous Tsarnaev brothers are nothing compared to the damage done by Glenn Beck’s lunatic greed.

Al Harbi filed suit against Glenn Beck, The Blaze, Mercury Radio Arts and Premiere Radio Networks for defamation and slander.

Instead of owning up to his mistake, Beck attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed.

True to form, the man who touts “personal responsibility,” who pilloried media personalities for waging a campaign of defamation against Iva Toguri, that man argued even though every word he’d ever said about Al Harbi was a proven falsehood before he said it, Al Harbi was a “public figure” and therefore Beck should be able to say whatever he liked without consequence. Never mind the fact that Beck himself was the one personally responsible for making Al Harbi a public figure in the first place.

The judge didn’t buy it.

Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Patti Saris ruled the suit brought by Abdul Rahman al Harbi could go forward.

Defamation and slander are damned hard cases to win, but if anybody has a chance it’s Al Harbi.

I wish him the best of luck.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bring It On

 

“With this action, the president has chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms that he claims to seek. And as I told him yesterday, he’s damaging the presidency itself.”
- Speaker John A. Boehner

John Boehner says Barack Obama is damaging the presidency itself.

John Boehner.

The same John Boehner who has done more to divide and damage the institution of the United States government than any Speaker since the Civil War, that John Boehner, says Obama is trashing the presidency and stinking up the White House.

I’ll remind you that this is the same John Boehner, acting for his party, who has repeatedly embraced a strategy of gridlock and obstruction in order to counter the president at every turn. Every turn. Every single one. For two years John Boehner’s party, the party of hysteria and paranoia and insane conspiracy theories run wild, has done nothing, absolutely goddamned nothing, but hurl the most vile of insults and accusations at the president and has deliberately, proudly, refused to work with Obama in any fashion whatsoever.

Over the last five years, congressional Republicans led by John Boehner and his ilk have treated Vladimir Putin with more respect than the President of the United States.

And this guy says Obama is damaging the presidency?

Oh, the irony.

As expected, Thursday night President Obama announced that he will take unilateral action via executive order to reform the nation’s immigration system.

And as expected, this morning Republicans are going apeshit.

Because going apeshit is the only thing Republicans can agree on.

Already this morning while John Boehner cries his orange tears of woe, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA and winner of the ironic name award when it comes to fear of immigrants) railed against Obama’s “brazen power grab.”  No word on whether or not executive action was a “brazen power grab” when Reagan or Bush did the same exact thing, or if it’s only absolutism when the black guy does it.

Representative Mike McCaul (R-TX) howled that the president’s actions are “a threat to our democracy!”  He then declared that he would “use every tool at my disposal to stop the president’s unconstitutional actions from being implemented!”  Again, McCaul raises the same question, why are executive actions constitutional under a Republican president but not under a Democrat? I’m all ears.

Of course, I’m not the first to bring up the comparison. And the problem with it is that logic and reason are utterly wasted on irrational and unreasonable people. You know, modern Republicans.  Pointing out Obama’s executive action on immigration falls far, far short of executive actions on immigration taken by Ronald Reagan does Democrats no good.

And right from the start, that’s been Obama’s greatest weakness. He’s a professor. An intellectual. He keeps making the mistake of thinking he can reach Republicans with logic and calm reason. He can’t. You can’t reason with unreasonable people. You can not reason with Birthers and Truthers and FEMA Camps and Death Panels and people who believe that hurricanes are caused by magic fairies in the sky who hate gay people. You can not reason with people who think the earth is 6000 years old and their personal prophet rode around the Middle East on the back of a vegetarian velociraptor. You’re trying to reason with people who are just plain fucking nuts.

Fox News Bill O’Reilly accused the president of “declaring war on Republicans.” Good! It’s about goddamned time somebody declared war on these silly sons of bitches.

It’s long past time for Obama to doff the professor’s robes and take direct action.

Somebody has to get congress moving again and it sure isn’t going to be John Boehner or Mitch McConnell.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said, “The president is the one who is acting provocatively, not the Congress. The last thing this Congress wants to do is have this kind of fight, but at some point the institution has to defend itself.” Defend itself? Defend itself from what? For what? More inaction? More gridlock? More obstructionism? What exactly are we supposed to be saving here? Seriously?

Representative Pat Tiberi (R-OH) blamed the White House for “playing politics.”  Yes, that’s correct, a Republican member of the House of Obstructionism, accused Obama of playing politics.  Yes, you may indeed go ahead and make the facepalm. In fact, double up on it, because you’re going to need it. Tiberi went on to complain, “What did the president do? He pulled the pin on the grenade two weeks after the election, as our leadership was trying to extend the olive branch of working together.”

Oh, is that what Republicans were doing? Extending the olive branch of cooperation?

Really?

I must have missed that, what with all the threats of impeachment and government shutdowns and violent overthrow of the US Presidency by force of arms.

Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) declared everything from impeachment to putting President Obama in prison should be on the table. 

That’s right, Brooks thinks Congress should consider arresting the president and putting him in prison.

There it is. There’s that olive branch of cooperation. You’ll have to forgive me, I must have confused that stick with the kind of willow switch old white guys like Mo Brooks from Alabama used to whip their slaves with.

Representative Steve King (R-IA), the House’s most outspoken opponent of immigration reform and one of the GOP’s most vehement obstructionists, said that congress would censure the president or shut down the government rather than allow any immigration bill to proceed. That’s King’s solution to everything. Shut down. Obstruction.

Representative Michele Bachmann, who is today blundering randomly along the Texas border with Steve King in tow, offered up more of her bigotry and softheaded paranoia, “The social cost will be profound on the U.S. taxpayer. Millions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals coming into the United States who can’t speak the English language. Even though the president says they won’t be able to vote, we all know that many, in all likelihood, will vote.”

Bachmann, who is never, ever, able to produce any shred of proof in support of her raving nonsense, went on to say illegal aliens vote “all the time.“ She has absolutely no proof whatsoever, she can’t substantiate her accusation in any fashion, but she says it’s something “we all know” about, because that’s how we do it in America, right?  When asked why she thinks undocumented immigrants are “illiterate,” Bachmann said that’s what she was told by, you know, random people at the U.S./Mexico border. “That’s what they told me. Those are not Michele Bachmann’s words, those words came from Hispanics who live on the border.” Ah, proof, you see, just like Bachmann was told by some random nut in Texas that the HPV vaccine makes girls retarded. And into filthy whores. Or something. Whatever, it’s all part of some vast conspiracy by Obama to something something illegal voters something liberals something Ebola! Oh hey, it’s not me, I’m just repeating what some random Texan said, because as a lawmaker, that’s what we should base policy on. Way to take responsibility for your bullshit, Bachmann.

Republicans have had years to do something about immigration. But they didn’t.

Congress could have put forward an immigration reform bill, they didn’t. They tried, sure, if that’s what you want to call it, but Republicans led by Ted Cruz killed the bill. And John Boehner let them. Say what you want about Nancy Pelosi, love her or hate her, when she was Speaker of the House she got shit done. John Boehner? The only thing he’s accomplished is … nothing. On purpose. He can’t even get his own quorum to agree on things they all agree on.

And he calls Obama a poor leader. Give me a break.

Congress could have acted on immigration at any time, in blunt point fact they could do it right now

But they won’t.

And now they’re mad that Obama called their bluff.

No matter how you slice it, the President’s actions are a direct result of Congress’ petulant refusal to do their job.

Reform by executive action is a direct result – a direct result – of republican obstructionism. Period. They tried to force the president into a corner, and he won’t go. And it’s really just that simple. And the really, really embarrassing part for conservatives is that part where they rail against “amnesty,” but it turns out that Obama didn’t actually offer any such thing … Ronald Reagan did.

Republicans are over a barrel with their bare asses pointed at the sky and they’ve got nobody to blame but themselves.

They can pursue impeachment and they’re welcome to try. Hell, last night Obama all but dared them to do it. Bring it on. Bring it on, go ahead, impeach me. Stop talking about it and do it. See where it gets you. File that one right next to John Boehner’s magic expanding lawsuit that never seems to get actually filed.  Boehner can tack on Obama’s executive action on Immigration, sure, why not.  The only problem with that is the court generally sides with the president. Executive Orders have been occasionally overturned by legal action in the past, mostly during the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration, but that’s typically not how it works out. And Boehner knows it.  The president is fully empowered to take executive action, it says so right there in the Constitution.

Of course, the Constitution also says that Congress could pass a bill making Obama’s Executive Order illegal, they’d just have to get him to sign it into law or come up with a super-majority to override his veto. Let’s call that one Plan B, shall we, Republicans?

They can shut down the government. Sure. Obama all but dared them to do it again. Go ahead, shut it down, Republicans, see where it gets you. Because it worked out so well for you the last time, right? Sure, you go right ahead and screw the entire country, fuck us all right in the ass, again, Republicans. Do it. See you in 2016 and say hi to President Hillary for me, will you?

Of course, the GOP’s leadership knows they’re looking at a no win scenario. They want to stick it to Obama so, so bad. Their dimwitted base is howling for blood and instant gratification and they don’t care about long term consequences, they just want the boy in the White House whipped for his audacity and for thinking he’s as good as they are. But saner heads in the GOP, if that term even applies here, know what will happen if they attempt either impeachment or a shutdown.

Don’t believe me? Go ask Newt Gingrich. Go on, ask him.

John Boehner doesn’t have to ask, he was Gingrich’s towel boy, he knows exactly what will happen.

So, speaking of KY Jelly, Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, suggested that instead of shutting down the government, the House should pass a broad spending bill to fund the government by its Dec. 11 deadline – then rescind just the funds for the president's proposed executive actions. Because, that’ll show him, right?

Just one problem, Citizenship and Immigration Services, you know, the executive agency that will carry out the president’s orders? Yeah, they’re not funded through the appropriations process.  Instead they operate on the revenue gained through fees attached to immigration applications.

Republicans could always hold up Obama’s nominations as a form of leverage.  Only two problems there, they’re already holding up Obama’s nominations and have been for more than five years. Frankly that threat has pretty much lost most of its oomph.  And two, well, heh heh, if Republicans refuse to confirm, oh say, Loretta Lynch for Attorney General, well, then they get to keep living with Eric Holder. I’m good either way, just for the sour expression on Mitch McConnell’s face.

“Pass a bill,” President Obama bluntly told Republicans last night.

Pass a bill.

It’s really just that simple. Pass a bill. Do your job.

Congress has nobody to blame but themselves. They tried to play chicken with a president who has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

They can end their pain at any time, all they have to do is their job.

 

Q: What's the difference between the House GOP and the unemployed? A: The unemployed want to work.
- John Fugelsang, via Twitter

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!)