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Friday, February 27, 2015

And So It Goes

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

That’s what I said the day after the most recent US elections.

It’s been, what? Four months?

Told you.

Today, unless reason prevails among House Republicans, at midnight tonight the Department of Homeland Security will be forced to shut down, at least partially.

After months of chest beating, dick waggling, Bibi leg humping, and bellicose statements of liquid courage, the Senate predictably caved in this morning and passed a "clean" DHS funding bill when it became obvious the president was not going to back down. 

Obama already vetoed Republicans once this week, sure as hell he’ll do it again.

And Republicans know it.

So the Senate bowed to the inevitable and passed a clean bill.

The legislation was sent to the House where it will likely die, strangled by capering madmen so out of touch with reality that they make The Joker from Batman seem sane and rational in comparison.

And then the agency charged with protecting the United States from terrorism, among many other essential things, will go into partial shutdown.

All "non-essential" employees will be sent home without pay, "furloughed" in government parlance - which is a fancy word for "how the fuck am I supposed to pay my rent this month?" because "non-essential" typically means you're not real high on the totem-pole and you don't make a lot of money. By definition, those people who make major bank and can afford a couple weeks off without pay, are "essential" and generally never have to worry about it.

That is to say, congressional Republicans are determined to make their political point by sticking it to secretaries, janitors, and the people who can least afford it.

And really, you can’t fault their logic.

If you’re going to screw people over, better the peons than the Koch Brothers, right?

Also, many contractors will be sent home because if the government offices they work in are shut and locked, there's no place for them to go. However, that's not always the case. Speaking as a former contractor, I was once required to sit in the empty parking lot of my government building during a shutdown - because my contract specified that I show up, no matter what, even if I couldn't get into the building. So, the US taxpayer paid for me to sit in my truck in the parking lot, listening to the radio, and dicking around on Facebook via my phone and thank you for that. Whether or not a contractor gets paid during a shutdown depends on the contract, their employer, and a magical matrix of arbitrary bullshit dreamed up by people who never have to wonder how they're going to pay the rent.  And why do you care about greedy government contractors? Well, because they're your fellow citizens and you're not a complete self-involved jackass for one thing, but more importantly because government contractors do a very large share of the work.  Congress sets limits on the number of government employees, and then leverages a workload which requires three times as many people - not to mention skillsets the General Services schedule doesn't include. So, the only way that works is if you hire contractors, because nobody else, by law, can do the work.

And finally, those folks deemed "essential" like the folks checking to make sure the bags going on the airplanes aren't full of thermite and blasting caps and that the nice gentleman seated next to you, the one quoting Ted Nugent and who smells like suicidal fanaticism and cat piss, isn't planning on taking you to meet his God at 35,000 feet, yeah, those people? They get to work without pay. The people guarding the borders? No pay. The ones guarding the president (and Congress, just saying)? No pay.  The big shots in the front office? They don't have to sweat it, but the people on the front lines, the ones who already get paid shit? They're screwed. They either show up and work without pay, or they get canned - and they can actually be prosecuted for not showing up if the government wants to be an even bigger dick about it than they already are.  After the shutdown is over, maybe those folks get back pay and maybe they don't. That requires yet another vote in congress. Now, you may hate the folks at TSA, but if you think that's fair or moral or anything other than complete bullshit, you should have to spend the next week standing 8 hour security shifts at the airport, or inspecting cargo at the Port of Los Angeles, or patrolling the Arizona desert while wondering how you're going to feed your fucking kids next week. 

You should get three things from this:

 

1) Republicans have made a hell of a lot of political hay by calling the president weak.

But they can't stand up to him.

They have caved every time, sooner or later.

 

2) Republicans have made a hell of a lot of political hay about national security. About terrorism. About the border.

But they are perfectly willing to risk national security, terrorism, and the borders in a quixotic attempt to score political points.

Hell, a significant fraction of the most outspoken Republicans when it comes to these very subjects are at CPAC today instead on the House floor - with less than 8 hours to go before the pending shutdown. Obviously they don’t think it’s all that important, outside of using it to beat Obama about the head and shoulders and to keep their base quaking in fear.

 

3) Republicans took the Senate and increased their majority in the House. They got rid of the reviled Harry Reid and handed Mitch McConnell the gavel. They told us the gridlock was over, now they'd get things done. You remember this, right?

But, as always, conservatives can't even agree on the things they agree on.

They can’t even achieve compromise within their own caucus when the security of the nation, supposedly their top priority, is on the the line. 

Now, ask yourself something, if Republicans can’t even agree among themselves on something they already agree on, how then is their inability to compromise with the executive Obama’s fault?

 

The simple truth of the matter is that these intractable sons of bitches can’t govern themselves, let alone the rest of the country. It’s no wonder whatsoever why they can’t sway Democrats to their side in enough numbers to override a veto or to unite the nation, they can’t even convince themselves.

You heard me say this before, political office is an amplifier and when you elect extremists, no matter how small or how slight, you get extremism.

Every. Single. Time.

It’s only a matter of time before they self-destruct and they are perfectly willing to take the rest of us with them when they go. These people are not the loyal opposition, they are unhinged fanatics and the only thing that matters to them is “beating” Barack Obama. They are obsessed with it and they are perfectly willing to risk the security of the nation and the livelihoods of American citizens to achieve a pyrrhic victory at any cost.

When the extremists win, America loses.

Every time.

Monday, February 23, 2015

An Open Letter to Senators Lieberman and McCain

 

Editorial Note: In reference to Lieberman, I use the title "Senator" the same way people address Sarah Palin as "Governor" or Harland Sanders as “Colonel.”    // Jim



image

 

I don't mind public displays of affection.

I don’t, really.

But, seriously, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, you two should just get a room.

Frankly the ongoing sloppy public display of tonsil hockey between you two is starting to verge on the pornographic. Haven’t you conservatives got a law about this sort of thing?  I mean, seriously, there are children present. Sheesh.

A little decorum, please.

Is that too much to ask?

Lieberman penned an OpEd which appeared today in papers across the country, publicly chastising democrats and enjoining them to hear out Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of the United States Congress.

Lieberman couldn’t do it via email or memo or an address on the floor, no he just had to make a public spectacle.

So naturally McCain slobbered all over his Twitter feed pimping his pal.

And I can see why Johnny Walnuts so loves Joe Lieberman and why he spends so much time and effort on his little crush. McCain makes a big thing of being the grumpy curmudgeon, but for sheer haughty condescension, nobody can sneer like Joe Lieberman.  No wonder McCain is in love.

It seems that a group of twenty-three House Democrats asked Speaker John Boehner to delay Netanyahu's address, scheduled for next month. The request, coordinated by Keith Ellison (D-MN), Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) suggested the United States would be better served to wait until after Netanyahu’s reelection – if indeed he is reelected.

"As members of Congress who support Israel, we share concern that it appears that you are using a foreign leader as a political tool against the president.”

Note that democrats wrote a personal letter to the Speaker, instead of attempting to reprimand Republicans in the popular press. They asked Boehner to move the speech from March 3rd to some time after the Israeli elections.

"We strongly urge you to postpone this invitation until Israelis have cast their ballots and the deadline for diplomatic negotiations with Iran has passed. When the Israeli Prime Minister visits us outside the specter of partisan politics, we will be delighted and honored to greet him or her on the floor of the House.”

The letter warns that Netanyahu’s pending address violates US diplomatic protocol since it was scheduled without input from the Obama administration or congressional Democrats.

"We very much appreciate that Prime Minister Netanyahu has twice had the honor of speaking before a joint session. However, at this time your invitation is contrary to the standards by which our Congress operates and has the potential to harm U.S. foreign policy.”

Democrats pointed out that Netanyahu's speech could very well damage international negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers currently attempting to establish an accord on Iran's nuclear program.

But this really isn’t about Iran, is it, Senators?

Lieberman says it's important to listen to Netanyahu (despite the fact that Netanyahu may not even be Israeli’s prime minister much longer).

● “because this is about determining how best to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons”

Lieberman swears it’s not just more partisanship or a test of “political loyalty.”

Right. It’s not about partisanship.

It’s not a test of political loyalty.

It’s not about republicans sending a big “fuck you” to Barack Obama.

Sure it’s not. Tell me another one, Joe.

This is nothing if not a test of loyalty, of patriotism, of partisanship, and if it wasn’t then it wouldn’t even be an issue, would it? If this wasn’t about partisanship, Senator Lieberman would have written an email instead of publishing an OpEd in every major paper in the country. And you don’t have to look any further than the proliferation of Israeli flag pins on the lapels of Born Again Zionists such as Sarah Palin.

Republicans, Lieberman and McCain in particular, have made it very clear:  to love Israel unquestioningly is to love America.

Anyone, and especially Barack Obama, who doesn’t show up for Netanyahu’s address will be called a traitor, anti-Semitic, a Muslim sympathizer, weak on terrorism, and unAmerican. And don’t you think they won’t, because it’s happening already.

Apparently conservatives like McCain and Lieberman think the best way for America to restrain Iran is to collude with the leader of a foreign nation while obstructing our own democratically elected president. Most of the time I can’t tell who republicans hate more, Iran or Obama and frankly, when it comes to Obama, it’s getting damned hard to tell Republican hate from the Iranian.

● “because you are a strong supporter of America’s alliance with Israel and you don’t want it to become a partisan matter.”

See? What did I tell you? Support of Israel is American. It’s patriotic.

And not just support, it must be strong support. Uncritical support. Unquestioning support.

And it has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Joe Lieberman is far more loyal to the Jewish State than he is to his own country. No conflict of interest there, eh Senator? But Obama, McCain and Lieberman can question Obama’s love of country and loyalties because that’s totally different – why, just ask Rudy Giuliani.

And, of course, it has nothing whatsoever to do with that bit where the fanatical evangelical dogmatists of the Republican party are expecting their cherished End Times to begin with a war in the holy land and, man, you don’t want to be on the wrong side when Fifty Foot Tall Robot Laser Jesus returns to murder all the liberals – starting with those who didn’t show up to hear Netanyahu speak, I guess. God will be sure to kill them first.

● “because the Constitution gives you the power to ‘regulate commerce with foreign nations,’ ‘define and punish . . . offenses against the law of nations,’ ‘declare war,’ ‘raise and support armies,’ and ‘provide and maintain a Navy,’ and “Netanyahu might say some things that will inform your exercise of those great powers.”

Netanyahu might say some things that will inform congress how to exercise those great powers.

Netanyahu, see, he’s going to tell the United States congress how to do its job, how to run America. Because the guy from some dinky middle eastern country that can’t defend itself without the military and industrial might of the United States and all of Western Europe is coming to goad us into yet another goddamned war against a country that likely wouldn’t even be our enemy in the first place if it wasn’t for Israel. 

Can you imagine? Can you really imagine the unhinged outrage, the conspiracy theories, and the offended screeching hoots of conservative congressmen if someone were to tell them that they should listen to François Hollande on how to manage American Foreign policy?

Or how about Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud? Why don’t we let him tell us where we should go to war? Well?

And boy, that’s quite an impressive list of responsibilities there, isn’t it?

Regulate commerce. Punish others for offenses against nations, wow. Declare war. Raise Armies. And Benjamin Netanyahu is going to give us some advice on that. Little Israel is going to tell a global power like America how to regulate commerce, raise an army, declare war. Awesome. Can’t wait.

Funny thing though, Senators, looking through the Constitution, I don’t see where your responsibilities include taking advice from some foreign leader over that of our own elected President.  Perhaps you’d be so kind as to point me to the relevant article?

● “because you know that Israel is one of our closest and most steadfast allies and you feel a responsibility to listen to its leader speak about developments that he believes could threaten the safety, independence and even existence of his country.”

Protocol question, Senators: in the course of listening to Netanyahu, at what point will it be okay to shout “You lie!” and then boo? Can we throw shoes?

Also, while he’s speaking, will John Boehner sit behind Netanyahu and make faces and roll his bloodshot eyes?

When, Senators, will you Republicans invite the President of the United States to address congress so you can listen respectfully to him describe developments he believes could threaten the safety, independence, and even existence of his country?

Lieberman concludes with “At this very unstable moment in history, we cannot and must not avert our attention from what remains the greatest threat to the security of America and the world.”

The greatest threat to the security of America and the world.

The greatest threat.  The greatest threat. Greatest.

To the whole world. Wow, that’s a big damned threat indeed. The whole world.

I’m unclear, Senators. From your rhetoric, are you talking about Iran?

Or Netanyahu?

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Telltale Heart Of History Beats For YOU

“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”
Winston Churchill

 

Obama doesn’t love America.

Not like you and me.

"I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you. And he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country."

I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe President Obama loves America. So says Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, failed presidential hopeful, and lover of America.

Rudy says that Barack Obama doesn’t love America. Obama doesn’t love you and he doesn’t love me. Obama, see, he’s not like us, not like real Americans. Obama wasn’t brought up the way we were brought up, imbued with mad love for our country.

Giuliani made those remarks at a conservative New York fund raising event for presidential hopeful Scott Walker.

And nobody, not one person in the audience, challenged that assertion.

Obama doesn’t love America the way we do.

When asked by the press to clarify his comments, Giuliani explained,

"He's a patriot, I'm sure. What I'm saying is that, in his rhetoric, I very rarely hear him say the things that I used to hear Ronald Reagan say, the things I used to hear Bill Clinton say, about how much he loves America. I do hear him criticize America much more often than other American presidents."

Obama is a patriot, Giuliani admits, sure. But different. Not like Reagan. Not like Clinton. Not like us.

That’s what plantation owners used to say when they sold black children away from their parents, when they broke up families: they’re not like us, they don’t love their kids like we do.

That’s what we used to say when we sought our Manifest Destiny across the Great Plains. We’re special. Indians? They don’t love America like we do. They can’t love their kids or their wives or their god like we love ours. They can’t, they’re savages.

That’s what we used to say when we burned down villages in Korea and Vietnam, hey don’t feel sorry for them, they don’t feel emotions the way we do. That’s what we say about Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. They don’t feel pain or loss, they’re not the same as us, they can’t love their kids or their spouses or their country like we do.

That’s what we used to say when women wanted to vote. Hey, god love ‘em but they just don’t think like we do. They’re not like us, like real Americans. 

That’s what we say now about gay people. Why do they want to get married? They can’t love each other like we do, not really.

And Obama? Well, he can’t love America the way Rudy Giuliani and his wealthy white Wall Street friends do.

And this idea, that “they” can’t love the way we do, is such an accepted idea Rudy Giuliani is comfortable saying so, out loud, in public, on the record.

They don’t love America. Not like us.

Giuliani was quick to point out that when he says Obama isn’t like, you know, us, he’s not being racist,

“Some people thought it was racist. I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people. This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.

Ah. 

So, just to be clear, when Rudy says Obama isn’t like you and me, he’s talking about Obama’s white genes, not the other ones. That’s not racism, it’s socialism, or maybe anti-colonialism.

Fair enough.

But since Rudy brought it up, what exactly is anti-colonialism anyway?

C’mon, in one hundred words or less, quick, what’s anti-colonialism?

 

Hello?

 

I mean, you hear that a lot in the last five years, right?

Anti-colonialism.

Obama, his views were shaped by anti-colonialism. He’s an anti-colonialist.  I’ve heard that statement or variations of it hundreds of times in discussions on Fox New and on blogs and from people I know.  And they all say it with ponderous gravity and raised knowing eyebrows. Anti-colonialism. But when you ask, what is that, exactly, and what does it mean to you in particular? Well, what you get is vague hand-waving and the Giuliani answer: he’s not like us.

So, what is it?

Colonialism isn’t a common topic of conversation in America.

So where did this label come from?

In his book The Roots of Obama’s Rage and in the pseudo-documentary 2016: Obama’s America which was based on it and in endless articles here and there, conservative pundit and convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza boldly states that Barack Obama isn’t like “us.” Which is interesting, given that D’Souza was born and raised in Mumbai, India and came to the US as an exchange student before eventually becoming a naturalized citizen – which somehow makes D’Souza more like “us” than Obama. Be that as it may, D’Souza’s entire position is based on the idea that Obama’s worldview doesn’t depend from the so-called American dream. Obama, says D’Souza, doesn’t see the world from the perspective of the founding fathers. Nor does Obama’s outlook come from Black America’s struggle for civil rights and equality. Rather, D’Souza asserts Obama was shaped by his own father, Barack Obama Sr. a staunch African anti-colonialist.  Now, Obama Jr. only met Obama Sr. once but that was enough according to D’Souza to change how he viewed the world forever.

And D’Souza’s hypothesis resonates with a lot of people.

2016: Obama’s America is the largest grossing conservative documentary to date and was widely acclaimed in conservative media and its message is repeated over and over by prominent conservatives – mostly recently, by Rudy Giuliani. “This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.

So, Obama isn’t like us.

Obama isn’t like you and me.

Obama isn’t even as American as an Indian immigrant – and Indian immigrant, I’ll remind you, who comes from India, which is a country still throwing off the remnants of the British Raj and is about as anti-colonialist as it gets. I mean, if anybody ought to sympathize with Obama’s supposed anti-colonialist views, it’s a guy from India

Anti-colonialism.  Again, what is that? What is it specifically? Obama’s father is from Africa (Kenya in case I actually have to spell it out after six years of birtherism).  Kenya today is the Republic of Kenya, but from 1888 to 1962 it was a colony of the British Empire. President Obama was born in Hawaii and never lived in Kenya – or anywhere else in Africa.  Now, how would that have shaped the President’s viewpoint and actions? Is anti-colonialism so powerful that it could reach across time and oceans to influence Barack Obama though a single meeting with his father when Obama was ten?

And perhaps it did.

Obama talked about how his father’s life shaped his worldview in the Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.  His father had been more myth to him than man, Obama only met him once, and he was an adult before he learned much about the man’s life – and that’s how Obama learned about colonialism.

But, you, how do you know?

Really, what do you, you Americans, what do you know of colonialism?

Is it the same, this concept, everywhere? Is the African version the same as the American and Asian and Indian versions? Hell, is it the same across Africa? How many places are still colonies of other nations today?

You know, the United States of America began as British, Spanish, French, Dutch, and Russian colonies.

So how come we, the “we” that makes up real Americans, how come we’re not all vehement anti-colonialists?

Or are we?

Our revered Founding Fathers sure as hell were “anti-colonialists.” Wouldn’t that mean all true Americans are anti-colonialists as well? Are we not anti-colonialist brothers in spirit to the Indians and the Kenyans?

If not, why not?

Be specific. If not, why not? Spell it out, line by line. Why was it patriotic for America to seek independence but not Kenya? I’ll wait while you think about it. Take your time.

Do you even know enough about this subject to have an intelligent opinion? Or do you just take a convicted felon like D’Souza at his word because he’s saying something you want to hear? The same goes for Obama, if you support him and believe that he loves America like you do, why?

On the face of things, it would appear to be a complicated issue, convoluted and intertwined in myriad ways, vast in scope, subject to interpretation.  I mean, we’re talking about the complex evolution of civilization, shaped by wars and conflicts, by environmental pressures, by millennia of  time, across the breadth of the world, restricted or advanced by the availability or scarcity of resources, by famine and plague, by religion, by economies many and varied, by love and hate and apathy, by adventure and discovery, by greed and fear and altruism and fad.  We’re talking about the emergence of nations here, about the rise and fall of empires, about the migration of entire populations, voluntary and forced. We’re talking about the freedom and enslavement of endless billions over centuries, across oceans and continents, and the interaction of civilizations over time and how they shape the present.

When you say, “Obama’s views are shaped by anti-colonialism” that’s what you’re talking about.  All of that. All of it and far, far more. Vastly more.

There’s a name for that.

There’s a name for how the past shapes our present.

It’s called history.

There’s an old saying, it comes in many variations and it goes like this: Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

There’s another saying: the past repeats, always.

Both are true, so far as they go. The past does tend to repeat itself over and over in endless variation, which is hardly surprising given that no matter how far we rise or how deep we fall the one thing that remains constant throughout the ages is human nature.

Those who forget the past, who never learn it, who ignore and whitewash it, for them the future is always a surprise and they go ass-backward into the unknown repeating the same mistakes over and over. Those who forget history are not only doomed to repeat it along with the rest of us, they will always be victims of their own fate.

But those who remember history, who delve into its secrets, who learn from its endless examples, those people shape the future. 

Those people are not victims of fate, but its master.

Those who understand history are the men and women who shape the fate of nations, of the world, of history itself.

They are the ones who become exceptional.

They are the ones history remembers.

 

And that, that right there, is why what happened in Oklahoma this week should disgust and horrify all free people.

 

This week, a Oklahoma legislative committee  overwhelmingly approved a measure that would cut all funding for Advanced Placement (AP) History courses for high school students.  It’s not a law yet, but odds are good it will be – either in Oklahoma or elsewhere.

State Representative Dan Fisher (Republican, of course), who introduced the bill,  denounced the new AP U.S. History framework because in the opinion of many conservatives it “emphasizes what is bad about America” and doesn’t teach “American exceptionalism."

This same complaint extends far beyond the dusty backwater of America’s Great Plains and has become a common item of debate in legislatures across the country where conservatives are even now considering bills that would ban all AP courses and not just history.

And the truly, truly disturbing part is that conservatives’ biggest complaint regarding the AP History curriculum isn’t that it’s wrong, instead they’re afraid it’s far too accurate.

Think about that for a minute.

Conservatives like Fisher believe public school should be less about learning and more about indoctrination.

They wish to hide the ugly and divisive parts of our past and remove from history those they deem “not like us.” And instead instill a sense of “exceptionalism” in the next generation by teaching only those things that make America look good.

"As I read through the document, I saw a consistently negative view of American history that highlights oppressors and exploiters"
Larry S. Krieger, retired school teacher, conservative activist, exceptional American

Krieger told Newsweek that the AP History framework portrays the Founding Fathers as "bigots" and he complained that American exceptionalism embodied in the idea of Manifest Destiny was described in the curriculum as "built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority," rather than "the belief that America had a mission to spread democracy and new technology across the continent."

Uh huh.

Krieger leaves out that if you weren’t white maybe Manifest Destiny might have looked like, well, a lot like colonialism.  Mostly because it was.

Manifest Destiny is a great idea … so long as it’s your destiny being imposed at the point of a sword and the muzzle of a gun.

Others, however, might take a different view.

Fortunately for people like Larry Krieger and Dan Fisher, those people aren’t real Americans, they don’t love their country like we do, so they get written out of our history because there’s no lesson to be learned there

These conservatives completely miss the point of education.

Let me give you an example: you’ve got this kid, see? He’s your boy and you love him. He’s handsome and he’s clever, sure, and he’s the apple of your eye. So far as you’re concerned he can do no wrong. But the thing is most everybody else thinks he’s a spoiled little shit. He’s selfish and self-centered, he’s greedy and obnoxious and arrogant, and he doesn’t give a damn about anybody but himself. He goes around making a mess and beating up the other kids.  He takes what he wants and you never know when he’s going to throw a violent tantrum.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with him, it’s not genetic, it’s you. You’re a lousy parent. Whenever he does something wrong, you tell him it’s okay. He’s special, see, exceptional, blessed by God. He doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t have to apologize.  You love him, you love him better than any parent has ever loved a child, better than other parents love their children, and if you force him to face his mistakes, to think of others, to learn, well then that makes him feel bad about himself and that makes you a bad parent. Right?

You know people like this, don’t you? You know kids, sure you do, just like this. Spoiled rotten little brats.

Now, what kind of adult do you think that kid will grow up to be?

And why would you think a country who behaves in the same manner would be any different?

When you go around telling kids, and nations, that they are exceptional and that others don’t matter, well, then you get a nation of spoiled rotten little brats.

It’s taken me a week to write this essay, because unlike many of those opining on the subject, I actually read the AP History Guideline from cover to cover. Twice. While taking notes.

 

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I saw nothing that gave a negative view of the United States. I saw nothing that made a judgment one way or the other.

In point of fact, the framework gives no answers whatsoever, it only asks questions.

Throughout the entire document, all 142 pages of it, the authors repeatedly stress that it is not a curriculum but rather a framework for further development and is to be tailored by each teacher to meet the needs of the students. The framework provides for broad flexibility, it outlines “key concepts” and does not, repeat does not, specify groups, individuals, dates, details, political opinions, right or wrong, moral or immoral, or any particular interpretation of history and you can verify that for your self directly from the source.

If conservatives see America in a negative light, perhaps it’s their own guilty conscience speaking.

This isn’t the simplified elementary version of American history made up of construction paper turkeys, smiling Indians, and cherry trees chopped down by future presidents. This isn’t the Mel Gibson version of America where white people and black people fought as equals to be free of the King of England and then when it was all over black people cheerfully decided to be slaves because hey, Captain Braveheart thought it seemed more exceptional on the big screen like that.  That’s how conservatives want to teach history, the same way Gibson directs movies.

Advanced placement courses aren’t about indoctrination, they have one function: to teach future citizens how to think.

Advanced Placement courses are college level classes designed for top performing high school students who are preparing for a university level environment. By definition these kids are going to end up running the country one day and either they can base their worldview on made up magic fairy dust or they can face the challenges of our future armed with a thorough understanding of how we got here.  Warts and all.

You don’t teach future business people how to run a company by only showing them pictures of John D. Rockefeller and Bill Gates. You don’t teach future doctors by only showing them happy cheerful healthy people. You don’t teach military officers how to fight by only showing them past victories. 

If you want your kids to love this country, if you want them to successfully shape its future, then you have to show them everything.  The good and the bad. The beautiful and the ugly.

You hear people say “kids nowadays don’t know how good they have it!”

Well, why would they? Why would any American appreciate how far we’ve come, how good we have it, if they don’t know how we got here? Why would girls appreciate the right to vote if they don’t know their grandmothers couldn’t? Why would black youth appreciate the opportunities they have now if they don’t know the history of the civil rights movement? How do you prevent another World War II or another 911 or another Holocaust if you don’t care and refuse to understand what caused the last one? How do you expect the next generation to shape the future when they are told they’re special and exceptional and they can do no wrong?

Courage is about facing the world, not hiding from it.

Wisdom comes not from denying your mistakes, but from not repeating them. And you can’t do that if you refuse to acknowledge that you ever made any in the first place.

History is how we understand the present. 

History is how we shape the future and forge our own destiny instead of allowing it to be thrust upon us.

If you don’t know history, the good and the bad, you will always be its slave and never its master.

If you want your children to shape their own future and the future of this nation, indeed the world, instead of being simply dragged along with the sweep of time, then they must know how we got here to this present.

If you want your children to be exceptional, then they have to understand history in full detail, all of it and not simply parrot mindless patriotism.

If you don’t know bad, you cannot know good.

If you don’t know ugly, you can never understand beauty.

If you’ve never seen true oppression, you can never appreciate true liberty.

If you don’t know tyranny, you can never understand freedom.

If you truly believe the United States to be exceptional, then you show it all and let the chips fall where they may. If you love your child then you teach them everything and trust in them to become exceptional adults.

The past, the present, the future are all connected. History, my friend, is a circuit and without a negative, there can be no positive.

If you don’t learn from history, you will never be its exception.

“It's been my experience, Langford, that the past always has a way of returning. Those who don't learn, or can't remember it, are doomed to repeat it.”
Steve Berry, The Charlemagne Pursuit

“We're doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That's what it is to be alive. It's pretty dense kids who haven't figured that out by the time they're ten. Most kids can't afford to go to Harvard and be misinformed.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Bluebeard

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Camel’s Nose

She was dead, of course, by any definition medical science had accepted for the last century. Someone had wired her to a robot doctor, probably during the final stages of the epidemic. It was capable of doing just about anything to keep a patient alive and was not programmed to understand brain death. That was a decision left to the human doctor, when he or she arrived. The doctor had never arrived. The doctor was dead and the thing that had been Charlie's mother lived on…
- John Varley, Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo

 

And we circle back around to Texas.

Where religious fanaticism blows across the landscape like tumbleweeds.

And where personal freedom is prized above all things … well, unless it goes counter to the evangelical church, in which case your ass belongs to God and your liberty is decided at the hands of the priests.

A year ago, Marlise Muñoz suffered a fatal blood clot. She was fourteen weeks pregnant.

Her husband found her on their kitchen floor in the middle of the night. She was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late, she was clinically dead by every test medical science has – and by every test religion has, for that matter.

Her heart had stopped and Marlise Muñoz had been too long without oxygen, her brain had died.

Now, if you believe in science: it was a tragic and terrible accident.

Medical science progresses, someday if religion doesn’t shut down the research first, we will be able to see this sort of thing coming. Hopefully stop it before it happens. Maybe we’ll even be able to correct it after the fact. But for now, nothing could be done. She was dead.

However, if you believe in the vengeful evangelical God of the Old Testament, well, then the bitch had it coming. 

Maybe it was part of The Big Plan and she was destined to die along with her baby right from the day she herself was born. Why? Who knows? It’s not the lab rat’s place to ask why. Tough shit. Too bad, God’s will.  Or maybe she’d done something to offend Him. Isn’t that how it goes? Isn’t that what evangelicals threaten us with every single day? Better be good, better toe the line, Lab Rat, or else. Do something to offend God and Whamo! He’ll kill ya and cast you into the fiery Pit. Well, maybe that’s what happened. Hell, maybe the baby pissed God off, maybe it was gay or liberal or something and God took them both out as punishment for that sin.

What?

What’s that? Oh, I’m being offensive? I’m being disrespectful of your beliefs by making them sound just as fucking stupid as they are?

Hmmm. Interesting. You don’t get it both ways. Either you believe in the shit you’re shoveling or you don’t. This is your idiotic belief system, not mine, if you don’t like how it sounds when it’s dragged out into the light of day try to imagine how it sounds to me.  Maybe you ought to give some thought to this nonsense before you start threatening the rest of us with it.

And don’t try to pretend that’s not what your religion is saying, because it is, word for word.

Whatever happened, by design or accident, Marlise Muñoz was dead.

She was dead. 

Machines kept her body going in a macabre semblance of life, but she was dead. Her baby was dead. Dead.

She’d made her end of life wishes known, to her family, to her husband.

And so, they decided to let her go.

It never occurred to them that it was anybody’s decision to make but theirs.

Imagine then, their surprise and horror when in express defiance of the family's wishes, the hospital refused to pull the plug.

Hospital administrators, religious fanatics in a state run by religious fanatics, cited an obscure Texas law they claimed required them to keep the dead women on life support as a slowly rotting incubator for her unborn child – and no, I’m not being dramatic, she was dead, her body was literally rotting. The fetus was horribly damaged by lack of oxygen, non-viable, and to be "born" would require that the corpse of its mother be kept on mechanical maintenance for at least five months – again, while the woman's body literally rotted away.

No one, not even the demented Mengelesque "medical professionals" who were perpetuating this horror, believed that the fetus would live or be anything other than a grotesquely deformed curiosity.

This travesty became a huge public fight as the state government, lawyers, news agencies, pundits, priests, padres, shamans, Holy Joes, and the ignorant howling mob all intruded into the what should have been a private decision by the grief-stricken family.

I wrote about it here in Decisions and Regrets, in an essay that got me both a personal letter of thanks from one of my favorite and most admired authors and thousands of vitriolic threats and violence-filled message from fanatical religious lunatics who purport to be Christians but are in point of fact no different whatsoever from the intolerant Muslim extremists they revile and despise.

Eventually the court acknowledged reality over unhinged religious fanaticism and Eric Muñoz was allowed to, finally, unplug the corpse of his wife and unborn child.

 

Then he got to bury his family among the vile and disgusting taunts of so-called Christians who branded him “baby killer” and “murderer” and informed him that they were assigning him a special place in their religion’s hell.

 

It’s been a year now.

But the religious fanatics just can’t let it go. 

I guess that’s what makes them fanatics, no different in spirit from those currently lopping off heads in the Middle East.

Hundreds, thousands, of children have died in the year since Erick Muñoz buried his family.

They’ve died from hunger and from neglect and from poverty and from violence and from abuse and from a lack of medical care.

Nearly every single one of them could have been saved.

But they weren’t.

They weren’t because the very same people who fought to keep a corpse on life support in order to appease their small and vengeful deity do not give a good goddamn about those children.

They could have saved them, they could have fed them, and clothed them, and healed them, as their God commanded them to do, but they didn’t. They refused and stubbornly turned their eyes away.

They’ve passed no laws to save those lives.

And in point of fact, they have worked tirelessly to dismantle what little protections those children currently have, they call it government overreach and socialism and ungodly and they turn children back at the border because they have the wrong color skin and speak the wrong language.  Think about that, no really think about that: these people demand that a corpse be kept on maintenance for five months as an incubator, and they demand it in the name of their god and for the supposed sanctity of life. But real live living children? They are turned back from the border every single day by the very same people.

Apparently, their miserable god has no time for the poor and the hungry and the sick.

Their god has no love for children already born.

But oh how He loves the unborn – even the ones He left inside a rotten corpse as part of His big mysterious plan.

So now, instead of saving the millions of children they can, ones whose parents would enthusiastically welcome their help, the fanatics have proposed a new law in Texas.

They want to assign government lawyers to represent a fetus.

 

I’ll pause for a moment while you contemplate the staggering hypocrisy of people who demand freedom from government intrusion into their own lives, and demand it at the muzzle of a gun no less, who are now promoting a law to literally force government lawyers into a woman’s uterus.

 

Texas State Representative  Matt Krause (R, Of course) has proposed a law that would require the state to assign a lawyer to represent the fetus in cases where the mother is clinically dead and being kept "alive" via life-support.

“You’ll hear what the family wants, and you’ll also give the pre-born child a chance to have a voice in court at that same time,” Krause told the Dallas Morning News.

You’ll hear what the family wants – and then you can just completely dismiss that, because in Krause’s world the family’s wishes are irrelevant. 

Krause doesn’t care what the family wants. Religious fanatics care only about their own selfish beliefs and they are perfectly willing to force your compliance with their religion, at gunpoint if necessary. Just like any Ayatollah.

You’ll hear what the family wants – this from one of the very people who thinks that the person legally responsible, the father, the husband, is less qualified to determine the wishes and needs of his own loved ones than a state assigned lawyer with a religious agenda.

You have got to be kidding me.

By definition it is impossible to prove the non-existence of God, but I’ve got to tell you that it seems pretty clear to me that he’s not up there. Because if the God of the Christian bible was up there in the sky looking down and judging us all, then given the number of times hypocrisy is condemned in that very bible, fanatics like Matt Krause would have suffered their own fatal blood clot long ago.

The best evidence that their god doesn’t exist … is them.

Krause and his fanatical cronies in the legislature want to assign a fetus legal representation and where does that end?

These are the same people who repeatedly attempt to create “personhood” laws. Now, how long before they’re investigating every woman who miscarries for negligent homicide?

Because that, that right there, is where this goes. 

Because if you believe a father like Erick Muñoz isn’t able to adequately represent or determine what is best for his own unborn child – and a government/church appoint lawyer is – then it follows almost immediately that this situation applies in all cases, not just when the mother is brain dead. 

If you follow this line of thinking to its inevitable conclusion, then it’s not long before you realize all fetuses must have their own legal representation independent of the parents.

These people have made it abundantly clear they believe a woman once she becomes pregnant gives up her own right to self-determination.  Her husband or legally designed representative is nothing more than a caretaker unable to represent her wishes or that of her “pre-born” child – though, strangely, he can be held legally responsible for the welfare of any existing post-born children.

These people will not be happy until pregnancy becomes a legal condition between mother and fetus, to be negotiated by lawyers and supervised by the state after extensive public debate.

Logically, any mother who miscarries must be investigated for manslaughter, for negligent homicide, for endangering the life of her fetus. Could she have exercised more, should she have been in better shape before getting pregnant? Was she too old, or too young? How about her diet? Her environment? The amount of sleep she gets?  Did she clean the cat box? Did she use artificial sweeteners in her caffeinated coffee?  What about her medical history and the medical history of her family, did she take that into account? Did she get a genetic screening?

For that matter, what about her choice of mates?

If a husband and father isn’t legally competent to make end-of-life decisions regarding his own child, and a state appointed lawyer is, then why should that same man be allowed to become a father in the first place without church review and sanction?

Is it not the lawyer’s job to represent the client to the very best of his or her ability?

If the baby is born with ADHD or near sightedness or left handed or just plain ugly, can the baby sue its parents through the agency of its state appointed lawyer for not providing the very best possible genetic and environmental advantage? What if the parents make the baby eat strained spinach or let it get diaper rash or fail to burp it promptly? Shouldn’t the baby then demand justice for these things?

If not, why not?

And do you really, and I mean really, given history, believe that some lawyer or religious fanatic wouldn’t try it?

Oh, I’m being silly, am I?

I’m engaged in the slippery slope fallacy, you say?

You think I’ve carried this to ridiculous extremes do you?

Perhaps I have, but then perhaps I haven’t and I’ll remind you that I’m not one who wants to keep a corpse plugged in as an incubator.  Look, we’re dealing with religious extremists here, fanatics who’ve demonstrated repeatedly that there is no bridge too far when it comes to their obsession with other people’s lives and reproduction – well, unless it comes to taking care of actual real live children, I mean.

So, you tell me exactly and in no uncertain terms specifically why it won’t in fact come to this. Go on, show me, because:

- In 2009, Nina Buckhalter gave birth to a stillborn baby. Two months later the Lamar County, Mississippi, district attorney brought charges against Buckhalter and a grand jury indicted her for "willfully, unlawfully, feloniously”  killing her daughter, “Hayley Jade Buckhalter, a human being, by culpable negligence."  You see, traces of methamphetamine were detected in Buckhalter's system, and the district attorney argued those drugs caused Hayley Jade's death. There’s no proof of this, but that didn’t keep the state from prosecuting her for murder anyway. Mississippi's manslaughter laws were not intended to apply in cases of stillbirths and miscarriages, but that hasn’t kept fanatical right-to-life advocates from attempting to apply them in such cases. Buckhalter wasn’t the first and she wasn’t the last mother to be tried for murder in such cases.

- In 2010, Utah enacted a law which makes it a crime for a woman to have a miscarriage. This law is directed specifically at pregnant women, not third parties who might cause or assist in an illegal abortion or miscarriage. The law was a result of a 17-year-old girl, then seven months pregnant, who paid a man to beat her in an attempt to induce a miscarriage (the attempt was unsuccessful, the baby lived and was put up for adoption).  She was initially charged with attempted murder, but the law wouldn’t support that and charges were dropped. So Utah passed a law specifically for this situation, except the way the law is written it can be applied in every situation I suggested above. In addition to criminalizing an intentional attempt to induce a miscarriage or abortion, the law makes women legally responsible for miscarriages caused by "reckless behavior.”  Since reckless behavior isn’t an exact set of criteria or defined in this law, all the prosecutor needs to show is that a woman behaved in a manner that might lead to a miscarriage, even if she didn’t intend to lose the pregnancy.  Walk outside and slip on the ice, and later suffer a miscarriage, then you could be charged with murder in Utah. I guess you should have bought better boots or stayed indoors. It hasn’t happened yet, but the law is on the books and it was written that way by religious nuts on purpose.

- In 2011, Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin introduced a bill that would have criminalized miscarriages and made abortion in Georgia completely illegal. Not only that, Franklin’s bill would have made both miscarriages and abortions potentially punishable by death. The bill required every miscarriage to be investigated for "prenatal murder," and would have made felons out of any woman who could not legally prove that there was "no human involvement whatsoever in the causation" of their miscarriage.  The bill did not, however, provide any guidance on what constituted "human involvement."  You see the problem, right? It’s Napoleonic Law, the women is guilty of “prenatal murder” unless she can “prove” her innocence – with a potential death penalty as punishment.  Think about that. Think about it in the context of the fact that medical science doesn’t know what actually causes a miscarriage in a lot cases. According to studies conducted at The Mayo Clinic, it’s possible nearly a quarter of all conceptions end in miscarriage so early in the process that the woman doesn’t even know she’s pregnant, and the best guess as to why this happens is that the fetus isn’t developing normally.  Franklin’s law would have literally made that a crime punishable by death. 

- Kansas is currently contemplating a law that would make any miscarriage at any stage of a pregnancy reportable to the state for review and possible prosecution. Even the bill’s original author, a republican, will not longer support it because the religious fanatics have taken it beyond all rational bounds. Kansas isn’t the only state to try this, Virginia attempted to pass similar legislation in 2009. And other states are currently contemplating similar laws.

And you can find numerous examples far beyond these.

If you start researching this subject, you’re going to find that you’re sliding down the slippery slope pretty goddamned fast indeed (See example: Franklin et al above) because the fanatics can’t discuss this topic without their obsessive lunacy getting completely out of hand and crawling right up the inside of your reproductive system.

Now, yes, a woman smokes meth while pregnant, maybe we ought to have a way to address that. Sure.

A seventeen year old girl tries to induce a miscarriage by paying somebody to punch her in the stomach? Again, yes, maybe we should have a way to hold her responsible – and get her some help, because only desperate desperate people would do such a thing. Only a frightened desperate young woman who thinks she has no hope and no alternative would do this, so maybe we should give her some hope and some alternatives.

And the kind of help I’m talking about would cost a hell of lot less without intruding on personal liberty than a legion of government appointed uterus lawyers.

This isn’t about protecting life.

This isn’t about saving some fetus or about end of life decisions.

This is about power and control.

This is about religious fanaticism.

This is about forcing compliance with religious beliefs, just the same as any Ayatollah.

For a nation which prides itself on exceptionalism, there is nothing exceptional about that.

 


The first part of this Essay can be found here: Decisions and Regrets

Border Wars

Folks, it was always going to happen.

It was inevitable.

As a country, we are no longer capable of doing business in any other fashion.

I've got a hundred emails here this morning asking what I think regarding today’s ruling temporarily halting President Obama’s immigration policy.

Last night, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen put a temporary stay on Obama's executive action designed to protect five million illegal immigrants from immediate deportation. The first part of that executive order, which would expand an already existing program that protects children and young adults who were brought into the country illegally but through no fault of their own, is set to begin tomorrow.

What do I think?

I think the same thing I've always thought: Congress should have done its job.

But they didn't.

So the president took action – and conservatives just couldn’t allow that.

So now it'll be decided by the court.

It’ll be decided in the court because the Legislature not only refuses to do its job, they refuse to allow the president to do his.

Republicans say the government is broken, and they’re going to keep on breaking it until they’re proven right.

Immigration reform should have been a done deal years ago. Instead of petulant obstructionism, idiotic shutdowns, conspiracy mongering, endless "investigations" into matters that have been long resolved, chest beating, dick waggling, Jesus hurling, booger eating stupidity promoted as some kind of virtue, superstition, ignorant science denial, prayers and rain dances, and endless endless endless bullshit, the people we pay to make laws and policies should have been doing their goddamned job.

And when they didn't, when they refused to do the job they are paid to do, like any other employee they should have been fired.

We should have thrown the sons of bitches out of office and replaced them with people who would work.

Instead, we rewarded their childish nonsense.

This is the United States of America, our government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. And the state of this country, the state of our inoperative government is our own fault and nobody else's.

It's really just that simple. 

We should have a useable and humane immigration policy and we should have had it years ago.

We should have a sane and sustainable energy policy, and we should have had it years ago.

We should have a workable and sustainable budget, and we should have had it all along.

And with a sustainable budget we should have had tax code reform, fair and equitable for all.

We should have a reasonable and flexible education policy, one that prepares the next generation to thrive in a complex and evolving world and ensures that everybody who wants an education gets one.

We should have a national medical policy that ensures affordable medical and dental care for every single American, every single one, like civilized countries do.

We should have banking laws that allow capitalism to flourish but prevent the wealthy from raping the rest of us at will.

We should have sane and reasonable environmental regulations that, again, allow business to flourish and resources to be harvested without laying waste to the earth or poisoning our children. 

And we should damned well have civil rights for all, for every single goddamned person in this country, black, white, yellow, red, green, gay, straight, undecided, left, right, believers and non-believers, old, young, men, women, and whatever, all of us and no more fucking around about it.

That's what we should have already, that and much, much more.

It doesn't require divine intervention, it doesn't require a miracle, or magic, or anything extraordinary. It simply requires grown adults to stop acting like spoiled children, to put aside their personal bullshit, and sit down and do the goddamned job they are paid to do.  No more, no less.

Instead, Congress has utterly refused to do its job.

Not only have they refused to do their job, but they’ve managed to convince half the nose-pickers in this country that gridlock and failure to perform is some kind of feature instead of the system destroying bug it is. 

There are people, Americans, who believe that it is actually congress’s job to obstruct, to delay, to block the president at every turn. These people believe that in a world of eight billion, in a time of exponentially increasing complexity, in a time of rapidly changing challenges and dangers, that the best thing we can do as a country is … nothing.  Don’t go too fast, don’t change, don’t advance, stall, hang back, let’s not be too hasty, wait, wait.  And meanwhile the world flies past, new nations rise, new dangers, new challenges, and we sit squabbling among ourselves instead of facing it like adults.

Congress has proudly refused to do its job.

So the guy we pay to actually run the nation did just that.

We can’t build a wall around the country. We can't arrest every illegal alien. We can’t deport everybody. It is simply not possible. We just don't have the resources, we don’t have the assets. And if Congress continues to refuse to do its job, on the 27th of this month we'll have even less resources to deal with immigration issues.

The president didn't grant anybody "amnesty," he simply did what any executive does and prioritized what assets he does have.

That’s not amnesty, that’s management.  

If we only have enough assets to go after part of the immigration issue in this country, then instead of arresting and deporting children maybe we should be going after violent criminals and drug lords and terrorists. And that is exactly what Obama’s executive order directed the Department of Homeland Security to do. Prioritize.

Sure, it’s easy to arrest and deport children. 

It’s easy to arrest and deport illegal immigrants who are washing dishes and cutting your grass and picking your fruit and sitting in college classes.

Sure, it makes you feel good, makes you think you’re actually doing something when you’re really not accomplishing a damned thing, while the real issues are out of sight and out of mind and out of the election cycle. Sure.

It’s always a whole lot easier to demand the impossible than to face reality.

But if you really want to address the illegal (and legal) immigration issues we face, then congress needs to do its goddamned job.

And they refuse.

And instead of demanding that their own representatives and senators do the job they were sent to Washington for, twenty-seven states sued the federal government to prevent the president from doing his.

And now it will be decided by the court. 

And you really have to admire the hypocritical irony, don’t you?

Think about it. Congress refused to do their job. They refuse to let the president do his. And now? Now the court will decide.

The very court these same people condemn for “legislating from the bench.” 

Think about that next time you hear a congressman complaining about “activist judges.”

If the court rules against the President, congress will pat themselves on the back and smirk in triumph. If Obama’s executive actions are struck down, conservatives will hail it as a great victory for democracy. They’ll cheer and grin smug smiles of glee at their cleverness, because they don’t really care about immigration at all, they only care about “beating” Obama.

Meanwhile, well, meanwhile we are no closer to a workable immigration policy and the real problems go unchecked.

And we, my fellow Americans, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

In a democracy if you have a government made up of assholes, it's your own damned fault.

Monday, February 16, 2015

President’s Day 2015

Parts of this post have appeared previously on Stonekettle Station. 

 


So, Presidents Day.

President’s Day.

Or is it Presidents’ Day?

I can never remember where to put the apostrophe.

We should call today what it is, Just Another Random Reason To Close the Post Office Day.

Whose dumb idea was this anyway?

No, really, considering the sheer level of contempt most Americans have for their government these days, not to mention specifically and in particular the president, we’re really going to celebrate something called president’s day? Presidents Day? Seriously?

What are the Presidents Day traditions? Do we burn down our garages while deep frying a turkey full of firecrackers? Is there animal sacrifice involved? Do we put up colored lights? Gift wrap fudgesickles? Paint eggs? Shoot guns into the air and light our farts? (that would be my choice, just saying). Should we maybe nail some guy to a cross and poke him with sticks? Burn witches and dress up in costumes based on the latest Spielberg movie? Is there a corned beef and leprechauns involved? Shouldn’t there be some kind of sporting event and a parade in New York? What? I’m a little hazy on what this day is supposed to be about. Does Hallmark even make a card for President’s Day?  Would it be like The holiday season? You know, Christmas cards for right thinking true actual Americans, Chanukah cards for the Jews, Generic Festivus Card for the non-believers, money orders for the Scientologists, and like that? 

Are there Liberal and Conservative President’s Day cards? If not, somebody is seriously missing out on a lucrative business opportunity. 

Like The holidays, do people get pissy if you don’t call it after their particular thing? Xidents Day? Ooooh, I’m so offended! Offended, I tell you! This is the day that we celebrate the magical virgin birth of little baby George Washington who was delivered unto America in a cloud of sparkly Angel wings by Jesus! By God, this day isn’t about celebrating Lincoln. It’s not about Taft. It’s not Grover Cleveland day! It’s Washington! George Reagan Jefferson Washington! Why has [insert generic political object of derision] declared war on little baby George Washington? Why?!

What’s the greeting? Every holiday has a salutation of some kind. Merry Christmas, Kiss Me I’m Irish lets go back to my place and have drunken leprechaun sex, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, Happy Easter (or as it’s known around here, Yikes! Zombies!).  What’s the salutation for Presidents’ Day?

Presidents Day. How can this be a real holiday?

Folks, think about it, there isn’t a even a pie

That’s right, all real American holidays worth closing the Post Office for come with pie.  Presidents Day? No pie.

I think I’ve made my point here.

Presidents Day, it’s ridiculous.

Now, of course, originally, we celebrated George Washington’s birthday and that was okay. No pie, but okay.

Because, Americans being Americans, they declared their independence from England, told the Crown to shove off, spit on the idea of aristocracy and royalty and the divine right of kings, and made all men equal – and then immediately set about elevating their own set of icons to worship.

Starting with George.

I guess I can dig that.  George Washington was the father of the United States, born in Texas, he was a personal friend of Jesus, he threw a hundred dollar bill across the Mississippi, he wrestled a polar bear when he was only three wearing nothing but a coonskin cap and freed the slaves at the Alamo, and then he fought off the Nazis after they bombed Pearl Harbor – or something. 

OK, I’m not sure exactly what George did, but he’s Sarah Palin’s hero and that’s good enough for me.

But that wasn’t good enough for everybody else, oh no.

Pretty soon, people wanted the day off for their favorite President too.

So then we had Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday. That was fun, people dressed up in stovepipe hats and went to see a play…

But before you knew it, Americans were talking about taking the day off for Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday too.

And then there was Benjamin Franklin’s birthday - he was never the President, but he’s on the money and that confused a lot of people and besides he discovered electricity and Pop Tarts and that ought to be worth a couple days of drinking and tailgating and some kind of bowl game. 

Pretty soon folks were talking about taking Grover Cleveland’s wedding anniversary off and going up to Big Bear for a four day weekend.

Then somebody came up with the idea of Vice President’s day, and Speaker of the House Day, and Take Your Press Secretary To Lunch Day, and Spend A Night In The Motel 6 With Your Congressional Page Day.

By the end of the 1960’s, things were totally out of hand – there were so many holidays that the 60’s seemed like one long party. That’s where hippies and venereal disease came from. The 60’s were not, in fact, a cultural revolution, it just seemed that way because everybody had been basically drunk for a decade – which, come to think of it, also explains the hygiene issues.

So around about 1971, Congress sobered up long enough to create Presidents Day.

Technically, it’s supposed to be Washington’s Birthday but saying that out loud started the whole “what about my president!” thing all over again.  So we just call it Presidents Day. Or President’s Day. Or maybe Presidents’ Day – nobody is really sure what to do about that stupid apostrophe.

The problem with “Presidents Day” is that it is supposed to be a day we all take off and ruminate on the greatness of our leaders here in the US.  And sure, that sounds terrific in principle, but in reality there were some real duds in the ol’ Presidential line up.

Take Marty Van Buren:

image

Give this guy a red rubber nose and we’re talking Bozo the Clown here.  And that’s how a lot of people felt about him.  In the 1830’s there was basically no federal banking regulation and Wall Street just sort of did whatever it pleased – including handing out huge loans to people who couldn’t pay them back, ever.  A massive financial crisis resulted.  Marty was a rich elitist and liked to live the highlife, you can imagine what the average voter thought of him by the end of his first term. 

Fortunately, thanks to Congress and modern laws, nothing like that can happen these days.

Or how about John Tyler:

image

Tyler ended up in the White House by default.  President William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural speech in history – in the pouring rain, in freezing temperatures, without a coat or a hat. As a result he had the shortest presidency of all time when he died from pneumonia less than a month later. 

Hey, I’m all about term limits, but that seems a little extreme.

John Tyler, who was Harrison’s Vice President, was sworn in as the booby prize.  Tyler was so widely despised that he is often confused for George W. Bush by historians.  His entire cabinet resigned in protest of his policies. The House tried to impeach him and he was actually thrown unceremoniously out of his own party.  After he was eventually evicted from the Oval Office, he joined the Confederacy and died during the Civil War as a Representative of the CSA House. 

Personally, I think the guy missed his calling, he could have made a killing as the “before” picture for any number of laxative manufacturers.

And do we really want to celebrate James Buchanan?

image

It’s creepy uncle Fester! 

What? Nobody owned a comb back in the 1800’s?

Buchanan, besides being the inspiration for Donald Trump’s hair stylist, basically caused the Civil War.

No doubt they’ll be raising a few glasses in his memory down South today.

How about Rutherford B. Hayes?

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The only President with a more sissified first name than Millard Fillmore (seriously, Millard? Were his parents just trying to get him beat up every single day of his life?).

Hayes lost the popular vote, but won the Presidency in court – thank God that kind of shit doesn’t go on any more. 

His inauguration was actually held in secret, for fear that he’d be assassinated if he appeared in public for his swearing in.  You know, I’m not a superstitious man, but I’d consider that a somewhat less than auspicious start to any administration.

Wait, it gets better, his wife was known as Lemonade Lucy because she banned alcohol from the White House – funny, but you’d think she’d drink pretty much continuously if she had to sleep with this guy. C’mon, Lucy, give The Beard some sugar!

Then there’s Warren Harding:

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Widely regarded as “The Lost Munster,” Harding is considered by most American historians as probably the only US president who can’t look at George W. Bush and say, “Well, at least I didn’t suck as much as that guy.”

He was easily corrupted, a serial adulterer, an astoundingly horrible leader, and a worse public speaker – in fact, this guy was so bad at talking out loud, that he made Dan Quayle look like the president of Toastmasters.

Also, he was the guy behind the Teapot Dome scandal.

He died in office and the only reason anybody even noticed was because things started getting better.

How about this guy?

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I’m going to be honest with you here, I think William Jefferson Clinton is the perfect role model for an American holiday.

No, seriously.

Frankly I don’t think it gets any more American than this guy.  Left, Right, independent, c’mon there isn’t a male in all of America that doesn’t secretly fantasize about getting a hummer from an amply cushioned cute intern in the Oval Office. I mean if you’re not getting free gratuitous sex, what’s the point of being President in the first place? It’s not like there’s pie.

Now, it is true that I hate Bill Clinton. It’s personal. He’s the guy who caused my conservative 80 year old mother to use the word “blowjob” in a sentence, at dinner. Folks, that’ll put you off sex, and dinner, for a while. Thanks, Bill.

But really, what better way to celebrate President’s day than we watch the game, we eat junk food and swap stories of our sexual conquests that may or may not be true. And later on we’ll have a cigar and not have sex with that woman (wink wink). Twice.

Now that’s a holiday tradition most Americans could get behind (or in front of, depending on your fancy, but I digress). That’s a damned holiday. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go stuff the turkey with firecrackers before putting it in the deep fryer.

Happy George Washington’s Birthday, folks.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Boogeyman is Gonna Get You!

I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won't get in their way.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 2001

Louie Gohmert is scared.

He’s afraid for America.

The evangelical (of course) republican (of course) lawmaker from Texas (of course) is afraid his God will smite America (of course).

Because that’s what Louie’s God does, smite things.

Smite! Smite! Smite!

“There is judgment that will come for nations that attempt to divide the nation of Israel and this White House seems determined to do.”

That was Gohmert talking to Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on Washington Watch last week.  Gohmert warned Perkins that President Obama’s “disdain” for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu may cause God to “punish America.”

God may punish America.

God may punish America because Obama won’t meet with Netanyahu.

God. May punish all of America. All three hundred and fifty million of us. Sure, that’s fair. Well, maybe not fair fair, but Bible fair and par for the course when it comes to God. Pharaoh won’t let the Israelites go? Indiscriminately kill every first born child in Egypt! See, that’s how it works. We’re not talking smart missiles here, you have to expect some collateral damage when God carpet bombs people who piss him off.

And on that note. God. May punish all of America. All three hundred and fifty million of us because Obama didn’t meet with God’s Prime Minister of the Chosen People. And we all have it coming, don’t we? We do, don’t we? Because we elected Obama. Twice. Some of us voted for him and the rest didn’t vote against him enough so in Gohmert God logic we’re all responsible for the Netanyahu snub. 

So we’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves when Louie Gohmert’s God murders our kids in their sleep.

I guess if we wanted to placate the Christian God we should have elected a guy who unconditionally supports a Jewish nation … say like Mitt The Mormon.

What?

Oh, I’m being ridiculous, am I?

Listen, I’m not the one going around telling people the angry bogyman in the sky is going to punish America over a matter of foreign policy.  If you’ve got a problem with Louie’s God, take it up with Him – and while you’re at it, ask Him why He decided to punish America for legalization of gay marriage in California by dropping a hurricane on New Jersey.

And don’t tell me that’s not exactly the God Louie Gohmert describes.

"You know what really gets me, as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and then some senseless crazy act of terror like this takes place. ... We've threatened high school graduation participations, if they use God's name, they're going to be jailed ... I mean that kind of stuff. Where was God? What have we done with God? We don't want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present."

That was Louie Gohmert in July of 2012, describing how God slaughtered twelve people in Aurora, Colorado, and maimed seventy more because He was angry at not getting invited to high school graduations across the nation. When Louie Gohmert says his god will “punish” the rest of us for not doing what Louie thinks we should, when Michelle Bachmann says hurricanes are caused by gay marriage, when Ben Carson and George H.W. Bush and every evangelical TV preacher claims American exceptionalism in the name of their God, that’s exactly what they are saying.

Am I mocking a religion? Am I mocking somebody else’s belief? Yes I am. Because when people like Louie Gohmert speak of a “personal relationship with their God,” what they’re describing is an abusive relationship with a crazy person.

The “relationship” they describe is exactly, exactly, like living with an unpredictable control freak prone to fits of rage and violence, the kind where you hide the bruises and make excuses and hope that someday the son of a bitch will stop knocking you around if you can just find a way to please him.

That’s the religion Louie Gohmert believes in.

I’m not saying this is what all Christians believe, but a significant fraction do in varying degrees – particularly evangelical fanatics like Louie Gohmert.

And he’s not the only one.

World Net Daily – the only media source that makes Fox News seem, well, fair and balanced – is convinced “’OBAMA ARMY' DEPLOYS TO TEL AVIV TO TOPPLE NETANYAHU!”

Oh no! Not the Obama Army! They’ve deployed to Tel Aviv! The Obama Army!

Hell, I’d think Republicans would support Obama sending his Army to Israel, after all conservatives love to randomly invade the Middle East – and we declared the last war over, what? Two years ago? We’re overdue.

Leaving aside the question of why it’s okay with these people when Israel pumps millions into US SuperPACs in order to anonymously influence our elections via Citizens United, or why it’s okay for Israel’s prime minister to do an end run around our democratically elected leader and address congress directly in a blatant attempt to manipulate our foreign policy, let’s take a look at a few of the comments under the WND article:

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God will not allow Israel to fall.

America will fall. Because democracy.

Everybody got that? There’ll be a test later. For extra credit, you may write a short essay on why God is okay with democracy and free will when it comes to elections in Israel but not in America – but you will be required to reference the relevant Bible passage and cite the verse where God only loves democracy if you elect conservatives.

 

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On no! Not the Illuminati powered Anti-Christ! Anything but that!

Jesus Galloping Christ on a Vegetarian Velociraptor. Shadow government from Hell. Anti-Jesus. GOP RINOs. Domestic enemies within. Bible prophecy. If these people were talking about anything, anything, other than their ridiculous religion, we’d drop them with tranquilizer darts and commit them to involuntary electric shock therapy before they started eating their own feces. 

Lincoln would weep at what these droolers have done to the party he founded.

 

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The Iranians have opened a front on Israel’s northern border?

Northern border? Did Lebanon and Iran swap places?

What is that? Creation Science geography?

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Suicide by God.

That’s my personal favorite. Suicide by God.

Better do what God wants … or he’ll KILL ya with fire!

That’s right, suicide by God.

It’s just me, right?

I’m the only one picturing God in a dirty wifebeater, beer belly, cigarette, “Get in the Kitchen, Louie! And make me a sammich!”

Better kowtow to some foreign potentate or Louie Gohmert’s abusive deity will slap America around some more! Give us another cigarette burn to teach us a lesson, another black eye and a fat lip.

But it’s okay. Louie’s God loves us.

He does.

He just gets a little … angry once in a while. He doesn’t mean it. He can’t help himself. It’s our fault, for making him mad.

Boy, that’s what we should be basing national foreign policy on, right?

 

I have a question.

 

GIVEN Jews are the Christian God’s chosen people AND Israel is made of Jews THEREFORE Israel is favored by God, so  it FOLLOWS disrespecting Netanyahu is the same as disrespecting GOD.

We good so far?

Okay, so, when Christians such as Louie Gohmert loudly declare America is favored by the same exact God, doesn’t the same exact logic apply?

Is not disrespecting our president also the same as disrespecting God?

Doesn’t that make Louie a little bald troll-faced sinner destined for an eternity of brimstone and pitchforks? Right next to Netanyahu?

Well?

If not, why not? Is it more like the Pope?

You know, so long as the guy in the ruby slippers and the funny hat hates all the same people we do, he’s speaking for God. 

But when the new Pope starts sounding like Jesus, well, hell, that’s the devil talkin’ right there.

Okay, maybe that’s more than one question and, again, I know it sounds like I’m mocking somebody’s religion.

Because I am.

I’m mocking it so hard.

I’m mocking the hell out of it. Because it’s stupid. It’s ignorant. It’s a bunch of primitive apemen huddling in their cave, hiding from the storm, watching the tribe’s shaman with wide terrified eyes as he rolls the bones and tells ghost stories about the Angry Thunder God In The Sky and the lightning outside. 

Here’s the thing: If the President does or does not choose to meet with a foreign leader to discuss mutual interests, it should be for good reasons. Real ones. Ones that can be articulated to the nation who elected that president and backed up with policy and precedent.  This is how our founders intended America to work, they designed a government based on reason and intellect. Nowhere in our founding documents, nowhere in the Constitution, nowhere in law or precedent does it say our foreign policy should be based on Displeased Sky God Makes Angry Boom Boom!

These people keep attempting to insert their idiotic beliefs into my government and every single time they open their mouth it makes me just that much more determined to stop them.

When I wonder about this country’s future, it’s not some imaginary lightning throwing boogeyman in the sky I worry about.

It’s congressmen like Louie Gohmert.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Fool’s Gold

Color.

That's what they call it when you find traces of gold in a stream.

In the old days here in Alaska, the sourdoughs would pan the streams and rivers looking for that golden telltale, that glittering hint of treasure in the bottom of the pan. Color itself isn't worth much, just a thin thread of brightness among the mud and sand - but see, that color was a clue to greater things, a treasure map.

They'd follow the color upstream, through the twisting rivers and washes, to the source. The mother lode.

Color, that's what we're seeing now, we miners of political gold.

We're still far downstream from the mother lode of 2016, but already the mud in our pans is bordered in bright yellow.

And then there are the nuggets.

Things must change for our government. Look at it! It isn’t too big to fail. It’s too big to succeed! It's too big to succeed, so we can afford no retreads or nothing will change with the same people and same policies that got us into the status quo, another Latin word, status quo, and it stands for, “Man, the middle-class everyday Americans are really gettin’ taken for a ride!” That's status quo, and GOP leaders, by the way, y'know the man can only ride ya when your back is bent, so strengthen it, then the man can't ride ya, America won't be taken for a ride, because so much is at stake and we can't afford politicians playing games like nothing more is at stake than, oh, maybe just the next standing of theirs in the next election.

Jesus Jumping Christ!  I was a Navy codebreaker, an intelligence officer, I've had professional training and decades of experience, and I can't parse that gibberish.

 

Yes, I know. It's been killing you. Hasn't it?

 

For the last week, my inbox has been choked with queries, wondering why I haven't said anything.

I haven't said anything because last week when Sarah Palin declared her "interest" in running for president in 2016, it was just political color.  And you don’t get excited about color.

I was waiting for Iowa, that’s where you find the first real nuggets.

Speaking at the Iowa "Freedom" Summit, the Sourdough Shill didn't disappoint, did she? It's too big to succeed or fail with the retreads for changing Latino men riding other men because we won't be taken for a ride! America!  She contemptuously dismissed the President as “a little boy” and then sneeringly declared liberals and democrats are racists and sexists. It’s the same tune she’s been singing since John McCain took her to the prom and got his ass beat by the star basketball player.

I've read that paragraph two dozen times now, it's pure buttery yellow Palin. It's ... beautiful.

I have no idea what it means, but it’s wonderful.

I'm a skilled writer, I'm even more skilled at mockery, and there is nothing I could have penned that would have come close to that golden horde of ... well, hell, you can't call it word salad, it's more like finely ground mulch. Compost.

Edit:  No in retrospect, mulch and compost are the wrong words.  "Word salad" is pitifully inadequate. It’s more like Word Coleslaw.  Wordslaw!

Palin’s speech was so bizarre, so utterly incomprehensible, that the Democratic National Committee issued only a two word response via their communications director: “Thank you.”

See, apparently, Palin’s teleprompter froze.

And she had to speak off the cuff, and that gibberish above is what came out.

Her teleprompter froze. Teleprompter.

And it’s like the jokes just write themselves. Lame jokes. Old tired jokes that have been told a hundred time before, but nevertheless…

Sarah Palin is the Zsa Zsa Gabor of American politics.

She’s a diva. She got where she is on, well, to use her own words, her rack. It sure wasn’t her brains. She had a few bit parts and she’s got her fans. She plies the talk show circuit as the queen of glitter – along with the same old cast of characters – and nobody can understand a goddamned thing she says. She’s good for a few laughs on Late Night, but nowadays she’s mostly famous for being famous and ain’t nobody offering her a part in their movie.

She’s grifter, a political con artist. This is her MO. She sort of maybe hints she might be maybe interested in possibly maybe running. The chumps flood her PAC with their cigarette money. Then she tours the country in her Patriotic Juggernaut of Patriotic Flag Humping Freedom, signing books and giving speeches composed entirely of disjointed Tea Party sound bites and utterly devoid of any originality whatsoever.

And then?

Nothing.

She doesn’t have the chops to go all the way, or even part of the way.

At best she’s color, a little excitement in the pan as we plod upstream to the real treasure.