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Friday, April 26, 2013

Various and Sundry For the Week of April 26th

Where do they get bottled water?

You know, that so-called "pure spring water" everybody drinks nowadays.

Where does that water actually come from?

The bigger question is: has anybody checked the water for funny chemicals lately? Is it radiation? Some kind of gene-spliced Franken-virus? Psychotropic drugs? Alien nano-tech? Glenn Beck bathing in the reservoir? The machinations of cats? What? There’s got to be something in the water is what I’m saying here.

Where exactly is that spring anyway?

I'm guessing that it's got to be in Louie Gohmert's backyard.

Because, man, speaking of Louie, it's been a weird month so far, hasn't it?

 

The George W. Bush Presidential Library opened last week.

Bush. Library.

Library. Bush.

Bush. Library.

Bush Library, those are two words you don’t usually see together in the same sentence, unless they’re caveated with the phrase “book burning.” 

What?

Yes, yes, I know, former First Lady Laura Bush is a librarian, but that just makes it even weirder (seriously, you’ve got to wonder about that arrangement. I mean she had to know, right?).  

The Big Dubya says he didn’t want the George W. Bush Library to be “all about him.”  He says history will judge his presidency.  

So, so very many jokes, so, so very little bandwidth.

Stonekettle Station was there, of course, way back in 2009, long before mainstream media. For you, gentle reader, I do it for you. And for the fame and the glory and the piles of genuine American cash bucks.

And the easy gratuitous sex.

But mostly for you.

Bush says he and former VP Dick Cheney have a “cordial” relationship.  Cordial.  I don’t know, man, I’d double-check the security if I was Dubya, and I’d stay out of cornfields and away from men with shotguns and orange vests.  I mean, we saw what Dick does to his close friends.  Cordial is likely to get you a ride on the ol’ Rendition Special and waterboarded in an undisclosed former Warsaw Pact satellite nation by large lumpy men with Bulgarian accents.

Cordial, that was the same kind of relationship Cheney once had with Saddam Hussein and look how that turned out.

Wait, what I am I saying?  I’m rooting for Bush here and how in the hell did that happen? But otherwise I’d be cheering on Cheney and his black clockwork heart, and no, wait, I, uh, Goddamnit, it’s hard to know who to side with in this relationship.

Cordial.

Listen, I’m just saying, if you drop by for a visit and the GWB library staff has Bulgarian accents, I’d run like hell.

 

And as long as we’re on the subject of testy cordial relationships that are likely to end with a gun “accident” in the middle of a cornfield, you’ve got to wonder how John Boehner is getting on with his soon to be son-in-law.

Seems Lindsay Boehner is engaged to dreadlocked Jamaican-born Rastafarian Dominic Lakhan.

Lakhan was busted on pot charges in 2006 – because, well, when you’re boffing a Rasta, giant knit caps and large fragrant buds of cannabis sort of come with the territory.

Boehner, as you’ll recall, is vehemently opposed to drug use, including and especially marijuana.  Plus he’s more or less head of the same group who isn’t real big on immigrants from the islands, mon, if you know what I mean.

And next month his daughter is marrying a Rastafarian from Jamaica.  

Now it’s not like we didn’t already know about Jesus’ twisted sense of humor when it comes to the children of conservatives (speaking of Dick Cheney) but man, this takes the cake (and the chips and the cookies and the leftovers and, hey, Dad, don’t you have anything to eat around here? I got the munchies baaaad. But I digress). 

I don’t know about you, but I sense one hilarious reality TV show in the making: Thursday night on Fox, it’s Mr. Speaker Gets Baked! Tensions mount when Lindsay brings her new husband home for the holidays. Things start out with a bang [overdub sound of rhythmic squeaky bed springs from the guest room]. Watch things go from bad to worse when a certain prominent Republican mistakenly eats a plate of magic brownies right before a big House vote on immigration!  Wake the kids and set the DVR, you don’t want to miss one minute of this week’s hilarious hijinks! (special guest appearance by Honey Boo Boo, brought to you by Doritos).

 

Anthony Weiner is back on Twitter.  Says he can’t be sure there aren’t more pictures of Little Tony floating around the blogosphere.

If I was Weiner (first thing I’d do is change my name and/or my fetish. So many joke, so little bandwidth), I wouldn’t worry about it, nobody remembers the warm-up band. No seriously, see, Bill Clinton joined Twitter this week.

It’s like the ribald comedy just writes itself, isn’t it?

With all the conspiracy theories flying around lately, I’m shocked that Alex Jones isn’t openly speculating on whether or not this is all a set up paid for by late night comedians. 

Think about it, two politicians famous for not being able to keep it in their pants?

On Twitter?

Weiner and Willie?

Even Jay Leno could get a couple of laughs out of that.

Speaking of getting a rise out of conspiracy theorists, apparently one of NASA’s rovers drew a naughty picture on the surface of Mars. 

 

NASA tried to deny it, just like Tony Weiner and Bill Clinton, but they’re not fooling anybody. Every guy who has ever passed out during a college dorm party recognizes that picture – usually they discover it the next morning, drawn in permanent laundry marker on a prominent part of their anatomy, right before they have to meet their girlfriend’s parents for brunch.

I’m going to be honest here, I can’t wait to see what the Face On Mars nuts comes up with for this one (Nuts. See what I did there? Ballsy move, right? But I digress).

Face on Mars, I suppose it was only a matter of time until we had a Wang on Mars.

And as long as we’re on the subject of nutty conspiracy theories, how about New Hampshire Republican Stella Tremblay (I swear I’m not making that name up). 

Not content with just being a run of the mill loony-tunes birther or buying into every goofy debunked conspiracy theory regarding the current president, trembling Stella went after Woodrow Wilson this week (Also, Trembling Stella is up for grabs as a band name, have your people contact mine. Rates are reasonable. I take PayPal).

During a state legislative committee on Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs this week, Tremblay stood up and announced that she wanted to use the last day of Black History Month to outline the contributions of African Americans to early America – and then she launched into a wild rambling unintelligible fever dream that began with Frederick Douglass and somehow got to President Woodrow Wilson being an enthusiastic supporter of Adolf Hitler.

“Woodrow Wilson, because he was a sympathizer and he believed in the Aryan race, he believed that Hitler was correct in the races, where our Founding Fathers believed that all men were created equal. He went through all the educational material and wiped out all the, uh, all anything, that he could about the true history, about how the slaves were a really good integral part.”

Just one thing: Woodrow Wilson left office in 1921.

He died in 1924.

During Wilson’s time in office, Adolf Hitler wasn’t precisely a nobody, but he wasn’t exactly front page news outside the beer gardens of Munich either. He’d just gotten out of jail for his treasonous attempted coup against the German government, the Beer Hall Putsch, and was more or less lying low and licking his wounds.  He was elected Chancellor of Germany in 1933 – about nine years after Woodrow Wilson kicked the old Aryan bucket – and didn’t become the actual Fuhrer until the end of 1934.

But hey, if you’re already a birther with a tenuous grasp of reality, why let a little thing like actual history get in the way of good conspiracy theory, right?

After connecting Wilson to Hitler in support of Black History Month, Tremblay worked her way around to the point: her bill to force New Hampshire to recognize what she says is the “original” Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution – which she says is really about strengthening the ban on titles of nobility.

Because apparently that’s an actual problem we have here in the United States.

The rampant, widespread, unregulated, willy-nilly conferring of titles upon the peasantry.

As I’m sure you know, certain raving nutters actual historians with actual degrees in actual American history claim that a constitutional amendment covering titles of nobility was ratified by the states in the 1800s and then taken out of the Constitution by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and replaced with the existing “Thirteenth Amendment” – which supposedly bans slavery.

See, according to Stella Tremblay, the idea here is that since Honest Abe allegedly pulled some kind of flim-flam, the US Constitution is, in fact, void.

Which makes America not a real nation.

Which somehow means it defaults back to the previous owner.

Now, just so you don’t think she’s completely nuts, Tremblay double-checked her historical facts with David Barton. Barton writes books, on American history, so he’s like an expert – never mind that his book, The Jefferson Lies, was taken out of print because it made actual experts in US history fall onto the floor and foam at the mouth in convulsions. 

According Tremblay’s spokesman, who addressed reporters in order to make sure the liberal Lamestream media didn’t take Trembling Stella out context, the United States is no longer a country.  See, it’s now a corporation chartered in the District of Columbia – which Tremblay's proposed legislation actually notes in the text.  And because the “real” Thirteenth amendment was ratified and then illegally removed from the Constitution by President Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln's actions dissolved the United States, which means he could not have actually emancipated the slaves.

Bummer, Black People, looks like you’re all still property.  Gives kind of a different meaning to Black History Month, doesn’t it?

Tremblay’s spokesman then went on to explain how the United States is still subject to Lincoln's declaration of martial law and is now under the control of Queen Elizabeth II.

I swear to you, I am not making this up.

It’s all true.

So terribly, terribly true.

But, really, folks, how awesome is a speech that begins with the contributions of African Americans via slavery, connects an American president to Adolf Hitler through posthumous Nazification (I visualize this process kind of like how Mitt Romney’s church can just convert random dead people into Mormons), manages to raise the lurking danger of unsuspecting Americans being suddenly raised to nobility (Wait, I’m a Baron? Goddamnit, I suppose I’ll have to order new checks now), and finally ends up with a declaration that reveals surprise! slavery is, in fact, still legal and we all belong to the Queen – all during a speech supposedly in support of Black History Month.

Anybody know if NASA is taking requests?

Maybe we can get Curiosity to draw a picture of Stella Tremblay in the Martian desert?

I’d chip in a fiver, as long as they made it big enough to see from Earth.

In fact, I’d like to pre-order the Hubble poster, please.

 

And then there are the poison letters.

Last week, somebody sent ricin-laced letters to the president, a U.S. senator, and an 80-year old Mississippi judge.

Predictably the conspiracy nuts went apeshit. 

But eventually all the sensational leads involving space aliens, Bigfoot, the CIA, and North Korea turned out to be dead ends.  This entire thing appears to be just another tired and clich├ęd case in which an alleged child molester named Dusty Dutschke, a part-time taekwondo instructor and part-time lead singer in a band consisting of himself and a robot, attempted to frame a mentally disturbed Elvis impersonator who believes the federal government ruined his life to hide its involvement in a secret plot to harvest organs from corpses and sell them on the black market.

Honestly, how many times have we seen this exact scenario?

On Wednesday, authorities were at a small retail space in Tupelo which Dutschke once used as a martial arts studio. Investigators in gas masks and Hazmat suits like something out of The Andromeda Strain were observed carrying large containers full of plastic-wrapped items from the building. Once outside, other officers started spraying down the protective suits with some sort of mist in an obvious attempt at biological decontamination.

Officers at the scene wouldn't comment on what they were doing – which, you know, demonstrates an admirable degree of self control. Because frankly, at this point, I imagine the urge must be damned near overwhelming to walk out of that building, face the microphones, and announce in a solemn and sincere voice, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we just found the zombified body of Jimmy Hoffa sitting behind the controls of a flying saucer holding the trigger used to bring down the World Trade Center.  Also, Mr. Hoffa had President Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate in his pocket and the plans for a hundred mile per gallon carburetor… Ur, I mean No Comment! No Comment!”

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to run down to the hardware store and pick up a water testing kit.

I’ve got well water and a massive high quality filter system, but frankly, you can never be too careful.

Especially when they really are out to get you.

Friday, April 19, 2013

…And They Are Us


[Update: Obviously I’m too subtle for my own good.

As such, allow me a cautionary preamble. This post is about extremism.

I’m about to lead into the post with some extreme positions and images of my own. See, because none of us, me included, are immune from those kinds of things, especially in crisis, especially when terrible things occur and leave us impotent with rage.

I’d like to see this guy dead. I admit it. So would a lot of people. I’m not ashamed of wanting him dead, I’d like him to feel the terror and pain and horror that he inflicted on others. Does that make me evil as somebody called me on Twitter and Facebook? Or does it make me just your average human being who can’t look at those dead kids and that poor son of a bitch in the wheelchair with his shattered leg bones sticking out of the stumps of his legs, and think extreme thoughts about the bastards who lit the fuse?

What matters is how we express those extreme ideas, and where that might lead.

I not going to apologize because this post isn’t full of happy laughing kittens. This is an ugly damned subject. And it isn’t going to get any better if I sugarcoat it or turn it into a joke. The murdered and maimed deserve more respect than that. 

As I said in the previous post, Turn, and face the danger. Don’t look away.

Extremism. Extremism in all of us. That’s what this post is about. And don’t try to tell me it isn’t, I know, I wrote it.

The title should have been a dead giveaway // Jim]


 

Chechens.

I’ll be honest, I really didn’t see that one coming.

It turns the that the Boston Marathon bombers are, most likely, two brothers from the breakaway Russian region of Chechnya.

Chechens.

Look at the bright side, at least we have somebody new to hate.

As I write this one of the brothers is dead for certain, and police might have just shot the second one.

[edit: Obviously by now everybody should know that the police got him].

I honestly hope that the authorities take the remaining terrorist alive. I’d like him to live long enough feel the needle sliding into his arm. I’d like him to look through the glass of the execution chamber at the people waiting there, and then I’d like him to be strapped down on that hard cold table, and I’d like him to stare at the cold metal ceiling, and I’d like him to feel his heart painfully hammer out the last few terrorized beats of his miserable life before the poison surges into his veins and he pisses himself and empties his bowels onto the gurney.

Because really, fuck him.

But, since, in addition to blowing up the Boston Marathon the brothers managed to kill a cop and wound another, I don’t suppose Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will remain either at large or alive much longer.

[edit: Reports are that he’s alive and in custody. How about that?]

And while there’s a certain level of satisfaction in seeing the son of a bitch blown to bloody scraps in a hail of gunfire, I’d really like Tsarnaev to answer a few questions before he bleeds out. 

Like, “What the hell, Jerkwad?”

Supposedly Dzhokhar and his now violently deceased older brother, Tamerlan (and, really, there’s prophetic name out of history for you), came to the United States more than a decade ago, when they were age nine and sixteen respectively, and have lived here, legally, among us ever since.  Details are a bit sketchy at the moment and everybody who ever knew them has a conflicting story to tell.  No doubt over the next few weeks we’ll end up knowing them better than they knew themselves and that probably won’t give us much in the way of satisfaction – unless one of them remains alive long enough to explain himself. 

However it shakes out, one thing is for certain: The United States gave the Tsarnaevs shelter and opportunity, just like every other citizen, naturalized or naturally born, Boston and Cambridge welcomed them with open arms – and they shit all over us. 

They nursed their differences and their hatred and let their bigotry fester, they – at least Tamerlan, according to his own words – didn’t understand Americans and didn’t like us.

Supposedly he lamented the fact that he didn’t have any American friends.

So they resorted to violence. They decided to kill people. Blow things up. Make a statement and go out in a blaze of terror.

I don’t know what their actual motivation was, religious extremism, political extremism, nationalist extremism, mental extremism, or whether they were just assholes.

Unless the FBI takes the remaining one alive, I doubt we’ll ever know for sure.

And I would like to know why they did what they did – but I don’t really know that it really matters in the grand scheme of things.

Hate is hate, all we’re talking about here is the particular variety.

This, right here, is always the ultimate destination of unchecked extremism whatever its flavor.

Fear, hate, violence, and death, that’s how it goes.

Writ large or on the personal level, extremism unimpeded always leads to the same place.

War, conflict, murder, terrorism, death, that’s the natural sum of extremism.

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar likely didn’t have any friends because they didn’t really want any. There’s every kind of person in America, somewhere out there are people you can relate to, form a friendship with, establish a relationship with, no matter your origin, no matter how different you are.

Hell, attend a Science Fiction convention sometime and then tell me that there isn’t somebody for everybody.

Somewhere out there are people who will give you comfort, make you happy, be there in good times and bad.

But it takes work.

You’ve got to stop seeing others as alien and make an effort to meet them halfway.

And if you don’t, if you won’t, well then eventually you end up right here at fear, hate, violence, and death.

And that’s what always happens when you see people as other, as alien, as not one of us.

 

That’s what happens when you look out at the world in terror, you become terrorized.

And when you take that far enough, well, you become a terrorist.

 

The Tsarnaev brothers aren’t the only ones who refuse to meet America halfway.

They’re not the only ones who look around our vast and infinitely varied country, indeed the world, and see not friends, but enemies everywhere, aliens, other.

The Tsarnaevs are just the far end of a curve, they’re where you end up when extremism goes unchecked.

They are where you end up when fear and hate are allowed to flourish.

But there are a hell of a lot of points along that curve, each a little step closer to the edge.

The ironic part is that by their own words the Tsarnaevs felt themselves alone.

They are far, far, from alone.

There are plenty of people here in the United States who look upon the world just exactly the way the Tsarnaev’s did, just the way Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols did, just exactly the way Major Nidal Malik Hasan did, just exactly as Eric Rudolph did, and just exactly as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did.

Events like the Boston Marathon bombing bring it all right into sharp focus.

From those who remain convinced that a Saudi national must have been involved – because he was a Saudi national, and a Muslim…

…To the once great news source, now sadly reduced to little more than a tabloid, who triumphantly announced a “dark skinned” man was responsible, and those who nodded and turned to each other and crowed, “told you so!”

…To those who immediately blamed the Tea Party or the Occupy Movement. And those, Right and Left, who continue to wage an unabated war of furious blind hatred on the twin fronts of news forums and social media, lobbing grenades of unguided ignorance and flaming rage at each other.

…To those who believe, and will continue to believe no matter what, that the president of the United States through the agency of some shadowy government organization conspired to blow up Boston in order to seize their goddamned guns.  Because, really, isn’t everything about their goddamned guns? Really? I haven’t checked with The Blaze or Infowars yet today, so I’m not sure what the President’s exact role in all this is, but I think we can safely assume that Alex Jones or Glenn Beck will shortly announce the details of Obama’s secret plan to employ Chechens in his nefarious plot to destroy America – which, paradoxically, will no doubt be immediately followed by condemnation from the same sources, berating the President for “taking credit.”

…To all of those who took the public stage to announce who they hoped the terrorists would be, or wouldn’t be. Please let it be a Christian, not a Muslim. Please let it be a Muslim and not a Christian. Please, oh please, let it be an atheist. Let it be a liberal. Let it be a conservative. Please don’t let it be a black man. I sure hope it’s an illegal immigrant, or a member of the Weather Underground, or a homosexual. I suppose it’s human nature, to hope or to fear one way or the other, but when you do it in public, well, you know, you’re an asshole.

…To members of congress who blamed Muslims trained to “act like Hispanics” in some Mexican drug cartel run training camp south of the border. Remember, folks, it’s never too early to blame brown people. Or to just make things up whole cloth and pretend you know what you’re talking about.

…To the columnist for a major online Tabloid who publicly called via social media for the death of all Muslims – before the identity of the assumed terrorists were even known. Ironically, that columnist is black. You’ve got to wonder if he’d call for the death of all African Americans if it had turned out that the bombers were Black Panthers. Or Christians.

…And right on down to those religious organizations who blame gays, and by extension God, for every single ill that comes along – and I’m not just talking about Westboro Baptist Church here. Like the Tsarnaevs, they’re just the most obnoxious extreme end of an ugly curve. If you preach hate and intolerance from the pulpit, you’re no goddamned different, even if you are more polite about it, even if you wrap it up in a pointy hat and a pretty robe and claim that’s what Jesus would do. Fear and hate and intolerance are exactly that, fear and hate and intolerance, no matter how divine your holy man makes it sound.

There’s an editorial in the Wall Street Journal today, Fascism By The Numbers, subtitled “The thuggish majoritarianism of the Obama-era left.” It’s worth the read, though you might want to avoid the comment section. Given the general nature of my usual audience, you won’t like what it has to say, but it’s worth the read nonetheless. The author, James Taranto, outlines the grievous excesses of the supposed “liberal” media in general, and David Sirota in particular – a liberal radio host from Denver who said that he hoped the bombers would turn out to be “Caucasians” (and in fact it looks like Sirota got his wish, thought not exactly in the manner he wanted. You should always take great care when commanding the Djinn, just saying. But I digress). Taranto spends some considerable ink pointing out every left-leaning publication and pundit who expressed similar sentiments, i.e. they hoped the terrorists would turn out to be somewhere on the right side of the political aisle.  He has a point.  The same one I’m making here, and in the previous post. But what Taranto conveniently leaves out is this: when you have spent the last five years, or more, talking about secession, and revolution, and shooting down your government and your neighbors, when you spend all of your time hating others and calling them unAmerican, then you shouldn’t be all that surprised when people take you at your word. 

And it goes both ways.  Note that some of the very folks Taranto paints as victims of unwarranted blame and bias, are the same exact people who declared the Left must be responsible because way back in the 60’s they were the ones talking violent revolution and secession and shooting down their government and their neighbors.

What goes around, comes around, sooner or later.

What it comes down to is this: If you look out upon the world and you see only enemies, the problem isn’t them, it’s you.

If you don’t like being labeled as afraid, then stop being afraid.

If you don’t like being called ignorant, then stop acting ignorant.

If you don’t like being accused of violence, then stop threatening violence.

If you don’t like being called a hater, then stop hating.

 

Extremism, unimpeded, always leads to the same place.

If you want an end to terror, then don’t allow extremism to go unimpeded, unchecked, unquestioned.

Confront it, always, and call out it for what it is, hate, fear, ignorance, and terror.

If you don’t want to be labeled an extremist, well, then you know what to do.

So do it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Unindicted Co-conspirators Of The Boston Bombing

 

"We still don't know who did this or why. People should not jump to conclusions before we have all the facts."
        - President Obama, on the Boston Marathon Bombing

Two bombs.

Three dead.

Over a hundred wounded.

That's it.

That’s what we know.

That's the sum total of what anybody knows for certain at this point.

Two bombs. Three people dead so far. Over a hundred wounded.

Got it?

Everything else is random noise in the communication system. 

Anything more than two bombs, three dead, is nothing but speculation fueled by fear, hysteria, rumor mongering, childish self-centered malice aforethought, people that aren’t authorized to speak on the record but can’t keep their goddamned mouths shut anyway, and the fact that we can’t keep raging crazies from buying guns let alone keep them from getting a nationally syndicated talk radio show where they can incestuously breed conspiracy theories willy-nilly free of any responsibility.

Anything more than two bombs, three dead is nothing more speculation driven by a need to fill up whitespace for the sake of filling up whitespace.

Case in point:

This morning The Week's Peter Weber starts out with this:

More than half a day after the explosions in Boston, police still have few answers. That hasn't quieted the speculation.

More than half a day.

Twelve whole hours and the crime still hasn’t been solved?

Twelve hours? If this was TV, Gary Sinise and Kiefer Sutherland would have solved twenty cases by now, including two story arcs involving 9-11, generic cardboard cutout olive-skinned terrorists who hate us for our freedoms, and shady government officials. And they’d have both stopped for coffee and gotten laid too.

Police still have few answers.

Really? The police still have few answers?

It’s been barely been a day, no kidding the police have few answers.  Real world terrorist attacks aren’t wrapped up all neat and tidy in sixty minutes with a squint and a pithy comment and time out for piss breaks.

Jesus Haploid Christ, given the number of these things in recent years, it’s not like Americans don’t have enough working experience with terrorism to figure out a reasonable timeline – but, nope, as usual, the standard issue two minute instant gratification American attention span requires the gaping abyss between its ears to be filled immediately.  It doesn’t matter if that filler bears any actual resemblance to reality at all, so long as the empty space is filled up.  Panic, conspiracy theories, mutating rumors, internet chainmail “eye witness” accounts from people who weren’t there, wild speculation from so-called “experts,” whatever, just so long as we don’t have to be alone with ourselves, just so long as we don’t have to wait.

Weber says, “That hasn’t quieted the speculation.”

And the title of Weber’s article? Who’s Behind the Boston Marathon Bombings, Four Theories.

Instead of discussing why speculation is counterproductive and does nothing more than muddy the waters, or perhaps why there are few answers as yet, predictably Weber goes on to relate that some people are speculating how it might be Muslims, right wingers, the standard issue Lone Angry Man, the standard issue Group of Angry Men, and/or Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.

Good thing we’re not speculating, I guess.

You may, if you like, insert a facepalm here.

Sure, when something like the horrific events of 9-11, Sandy Hook, or the Boston Marathon bombing happen, it’s human nature to want answers and to want answers right now.  It’s human nature to slow down and gape at the accident scene. But, damnit, you’ve got a brain, you’ve supposedly got intelligence, intellect, reasoning ability. For crying out loud, use those tools, you can override your glands.

Of course we want answers right now. 

Nobody likes being patient in situations like this. And in the Google Age we’re used to getting those answers immediately – and if they turn out to be right, so much the better.

We want answers. We want justice. We want revenge. We want to know. And we want it now.

So what? I want a pony, and I’m not likely to get that either.

Sit down and shut up.  Stop making it worse.  

Let the professionals do their jobs.

And it does take professionals you know, to figure out what happened. Just because you have an internet connection and you watch CSI and you listen to conspiracy talk radio day in and day out does not actually qualify you as a forensic or anti-terrorism expert – and you ought to be smart enough to know that.

As somebody who has spent the better part of my life in the intelligence field, I can tell you that this period, the immediate aftermath of the event, is far more complex and far more difficult than you can possibly imagine – even if you’ve had direct experience in this sort of thing. The sheer volume of information is staggering, almost incomprehensible. For example, depending on the situation there might be half a million phone records worldwide to look through, cell and landlines, text and data and email and so on, connections upon connections, in this day and age those bombs could have been set off from the other side of the world and watched via real-time internet video. And that’s just one tiny piece of the puzzle. We live in the Information Age, the problem isn’t that there isn’t enough information, the problem is that there is huge giant mountains of it – and most of that is irrelevant or false. But it’s all got to be gone through, every bit of it. And that can’t be done by machines, not really, people have to look at it. Trained people. Experts. Not conspiracy nuts, not just any Joe Shit The Ragman. Actual real educated and trained and experienced experts have to go through the information, slowly, carefully, bit by bit.  And their difficult job is made even more difficult because not only are the investigators literally looking for the mangled pieces of a very tiny needle in a very large, very cluttered, very rutted and very muddy storm-tossed hay field, there are also certain folks who are actively working to make and shovel more hay, wheat, rye, grass clippings, manure, and any other metaphor you’d care to dream up, on top the whole mess.

At best, it’s like Weber’s article, more or less an innocuous roundup of the usual suspects.

Of course the first thing everybody in the world thought was, “Muslim Terrorists!”  Followed by “Domestic Terrorists!” Followed by “Crazy Person With An Ax To Grind.”  Because we’ve all been through this before.

And that’s bad enough, because all of those well intentioned citizens are busy right now clogging the FBI tip line. And, hell, you know, maybe one of them will have something useful.

But at worst, like the crazed cheekbiters at Red State, The Blaze, InfoWars, and on Alex Jones’ Facebook Page with their “Bigfoot,” “Space Aliens,” and “Obama’s Smooth Chocolate Negro Ray of False Flag Gun Confiscation” conspiracy theories, it’s ridiculous unfounded accusations manufactured whole cloth from feverish nightmares.  It’s ridiculous nonsense, idiotic nonsense, the kind of demented doodling that should be called out as the unhinged mental illness that it is.

And it is a sickness,

It’s a version of mass hysteria, a type of group obsessive compulsive disorder, where the afflicted see their own pet bugaboos in everything, in every event no matter how big or small.  And while Conspiracy King Alex Jones himself is unlikely to distract the FBI investigators, he and his fear mongering brethren aid and abet the terrorists by inciting their own weak minded followers to rage and fear and riot.  And then those deluded paranoids clog the system with their conspiracy theories and their bizarre false-flag accusations and their witch fearing insanity, just as they did after 9-11 and Sandy Hook and Benghazi.  It began within an hour of the bombings in Boston.

And of course the media bears some responsibility. Certainly. The empty bandwidth must be filled and since there are as yet no facts, no answers, the airwaves are clogged with speculation and random chatter and irresponsibly unmoderated comment forums. Almost everything you see and read and hear in the media right now is just filler. The information machine is running in idle, gears unclutched, flywheel spinning free, making a squeaking clattering noise and producing nothing but fear and paranoia and wild speculation. Like, for example, interviews today with witnesses to the Belfast IRA bombings of previous decades – which, given the ethnic Irish background of Boston, makes certain completely unsupported connections in the public mind.  Connections that just throw fuel on the wild imaginings of the conspiracy theorists. 

It’s going to take time to figure out who, how, and why.

And you’re just going to have to put on your big boy pants and deal with it.

Even if those responsible walk into the Boston FBI field office right now and raise their hands and confess all, it still requires time to investigate, collect evidence, do the lab work, gather intelligence, analyze the data, run down false leads and bad information, and verify that the people who said they did it actually did do it.

And more likely those responsible won’t admit it, and they’ll have to be hunted down like rats in the walls and unless the police and the FBI get very, very lucky, that’s going to take one hell of a lot of hard work.

The media, the politicians, and the pundits can’t afford to ignore the bombing – and thus appear callous and indifferent and uncaring and clueless and thereby stand to lose readers and voters.   But they’ve got nothing to report, because nobody knows anything.  So they run wild and make things worse instead of demonstrating leadership.

And they do it because the American people demand it.  They want their conspiracy, they want their sensation, they want their pound of flesh and pictures of blood and severed limbs.

The responsible thing to do here, the grown up rational adult thing, is to acknowledge that we don’t know anything.  We will, eventually.  But at the moment we don’t.  And it’s going to take time before we do.  And that is just the way it is. 

When  you deliberately spread fear and uncertainty and hatred as part of events like this, and when you enable others to do so by giving them an unmoderated commenting forum in which to exercise their paranoid ravings, you are engaging in conspiracy to commit terrorism. 

That’s what they call it you know, conspiracy, aiding and abetting, when you help the criminals but don’t commit the act yourself.

Because that’s what they want.

That’s the very goal of terrorism: the contagious and self-reinforcing spread of hate and fear and confusion, terror.

It’s human nature to gape at an accident, to wonder at its cause, but when you actively engage in rumor mongering, when you buy into conspiracy theories, when you create and spread unthinking small-minded irresponsible speculation, you are directly aiding and abetting the terrorists.  No more, no less.

 

Like those first responders in Boston yesterday, the ones who turned their backs on safety and ran towards the danger, it’s time to find our courage and confront the threat head on.

No terrorist, alone or by the dozen, can destroy America. They can snap at our heels, but they can’t destroy us. They can’t even hurt us to any significant degree.

Not without help.

So stop helping them.

Stop conspiring with those who would tear this country apart rather than help hold it together.  

Turn, and face the danger.

Face the danger and stand resolute and know that the day of reckoning will come.

The day of reckoning will come for the cowardly sons of bitches who planted the bombs, and for those who conspire to spread hate and fear and terror.

 

“But make no mistake. We will get to the bottom of this. We will find out who did this. We will find out why they did this. Any individual or responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”
     - President Barack Obama

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Fabulous ShopKat

 

After the previous post I got a whole bunch of complaints about ShopKat.

Specifically, “Why you no post picurz of Da Fabuluz ShopKatz no more? We luvs ShopKatz, Precious.”

Sorry about that.

These days I mostly post pictures and stories about The Fabulous ShopKat on my Facebook page, along with a vast and amazing variety of other spectacular high quality entertainments.

If you’re a facebooker you can find me here.  And as an added bonus, as if you needed even more goodness than just me, there’s an entire Facebook gallery dedicated to ShopKat pictures. 

If you don’t have a Facebook account, well, see, this would be a pretty good reason to get one. I’m just saying.  Then you can send me a friend request and we can be Facebook Best Friends Until The End Of Time or until Barack Obama destroys the universe with his Smooth Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo, whichever comes first.

And remember, if you don’t want to friend me on Facebook (and that’s OK, I don’t want to friend you either. So there. Nyah), you can always just subscribe to my page.

However, that being said, for those of you in the Witness Protection Program or who have a valid medical reason for avoiding Facebook, here is a tasty sampling of The Fabulous ShopKat.

ShopKat runs on a variety of alternative fuels, liver bits, fish bits, chicken bits, and of course, solar power. Here she is exposing her considerable solar energy collecting surface to the warm afternoon rays of the Alaskan sun.

 

When fully charged, ShopKat’s eyes glow with a hellish yellow light and and Saint Elmo’s Fire crackles across her fur like lightening.

 

I might have just made up that part about the St. Elmo’s Fire. But ShopKat can totally shoot laser beams out of her eyes (All cats can. It’s true, you can look it up on the internet):

 

Usually though, she saves the laser death beams for the voles hiding in the grass. Zap. Zap. The quiet Alaskan summer evenings are often filled with their little screams. Zap. Zap. And the smell of burning vermin:

Hey, entertainment is where you find it. You guys have lightening bugs. We don’t get that here. Our bugs can’t shoot electricity out of their asses, instead they suck blood, in the quart size. 

 

I don’t have anything snarky to say about this picture. I just really, really like this picture:

 

The grass is always greener on the other side of the glass:

 

The grass is always greener, except when it’s frozen solid:

 

Don’t you just hate it when your boogers freeze?

 

 

She’s my pal. She makes me laugh and brightens my day.

 

So there you go, The Fabulous ShopKat.

Now stop your damned complaining.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

‘Fraidy Cat

This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
           -
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1st Inaugural Address (March 4th, 1933)

 

I’ve got a number of pets.

Including several cats.

One of those felines is utterly fearless.

She came to me, that cat, as a castaway. Literally, cast away by some cowardly waste of humanity.

I found her at my back door on a –20F Alaskan winter morning, a tiny ball of fluff damned near frozen to death.  Crying piteously, hungry, cold, and terrified.

Now, the very last thing I needed at that point was another damned cat.

I suppose the conservative thing, the prudent thing, the safe thing, to do would have been to shoo her away from the house with curses and kicks, send her back out into the Alaskan winter to find her own way in the world. Honestly, what did I owe this needy creature? I had my own problems, my own pets, my own cats already.

I’ve spent my entire life in war zones around the world, one more life – and an animal at that – what difference could it make to me?

As it turns out, I’m not the kind of guy who would leave a kitten to freeze to death – make of that what you will.

I spent some time and effort looking for her people, but it became obvious fairly quickly that she’d been tossed out of a car and abandoned to her own devices in the midst of the Alaskan winter.

And so, because there was no one else, she became my responsibility. 

For various reasons involving two large male cats already in residence, the tiny kitten couldn’t be let into the house.  So she made a home for herself in my woodshop and eventually grew into the fabulous world-renowned ShopKat, famous from one end of Facebook to the other. 

At first she was afraid of nearly everything, as all babies are, and spent much of her time hiding in the many dark nooks and crannies of my large cluttered workshop.

But very quickly she became fearless.

Howling woodworking machinery, the various loud shop vacuum systems, the chainsaws, the ATV’s when I’m winching logs into the woodpile or plowing snow, nothing frightens her.  She spends her time perched on top of running equipment, intently watching my various projects. Which isn’t to say that she’s a happy-go-lucky idiot or not sufficiently cautious, or overly dependent on me for protection. Alaska is a dangerous place for small creatures and the ShopKat is more than aware of that fact. You have only to watch her cautiously scanning the sky for bald eagles or carefully checking for bears before venturing outside the shop to see immediately just how aware she is – however, that said, ShopKat has been known to charge full grown bull moose, it’s the damnest thing you’ll likely ever see.  And she never, ever, goes near the road.

It’s four years later, and the ShopKat has become my affectionate and cheerful companion. She is the most singularly funny, intelligent, and amazing creature. She brightens my many hours in the shop, and not a day goes by that she doesn’t express just how grateful she is for a home.

And then there is the White Cat. 

Stupid, we call him, and the label suits him perfectly.  He’s pretty and decorative, but he’s just none too bright.  He and his brother, Tubby the Gray Cat, live in the house and never, ever, venture outside. And for very good and very costly reasons. As I said, Alaska is a dangerous place for small fuzzy creatures.

Stupid is afraid of everything

The vacuum cleaner nearly gives him a fright induced stroke. A sneeze can cause him to cower in the basement for hours. Loud noises, and not so loud noises, terrify him. He was once ambushed by a tennis ball. Stupid is afraid of his own tail.  He can start violently awake from a sound sleep in the middle of a quiet sunny afternoon, hounded by dangers only he can see, and race madly for shelter behind the wood stove or under the couch, peering suspiciously out at the world with wide terrified yellow eyes.

He cries piteously for attention, but when you reach for him he screams in horror and shies away, deathly afraid of being touched. 

If you try to pick him up, he goes completely rigid, legs and tail sticking straight out like an electrified statue of a cartoon cat made from barbed wire. He is at once both the most pathetically needy and the most spastically unaffectionate creature I’ve yet come across.

What is the difference between ShopKat and Stupid?

What makes one creature so utterly fearless and one so utterly fearful?

Is it just the perversity of cats in general?

Is it because one appears fantastically intelligent and the other is as dumb as a catnip mouse?

Is it nature or nurture?

Is it an accident of genetics? Happenstance? Or the natural extremes of a normal curve?

I have no idea. Cats are slaves to their nature and their nature is alien to human perception.

I do know, however, that fear can be learned. 

One of the (several) reasons I don’t want ShopKat in the house with Stupid and Tubby is that I don’t want her to pick up their fear, their everyday terror at mundane things, the nameless shapeless dread that rules Stupid’s very existence. 

Because I know that fear can be contagious.

I’ve seen it, out there in the world, on the battlefield, in crisis. 

I know that fear can spread until people, like cats, become frightened by the slightest adversity, the smallest setback, the tiniest upset, until fear becomes habit.

 

The question is whether or not fear can be unlearned.

The question is if the habit of fear can be broken.

 

Fear.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

That’s what Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said.

It’s one of the most famous, and most recognizable, quotes in American history.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Nameless.

Unreasoning.

Unjustified.

Trembling paralyzing bone chilling fear that keeps us from doing what needs to be done, fear that turns advance into retreat, victory into defeat, hope into ashes, cheerful resolute optimism into endless bitter pessimism.

Fear.

Roosevelt sure got that right, didn’t he?

Eighty years ago there was plenty of fear to go around. The country was afraid, hell, the whole world wallowed in fear – and for good reason. It was the darkest hour of the Great Depression.  In America, the economy had collapsed, banks failed one after the other, ruined investors took to stepping off high ledges or swallowing bullets, entire industries vanished overnight, tens of millions were out of work, millions were on the brink of starvation, tens of thousands more were homeless or squatted in Hoovervilles, the Dust Bowl smothered the Midwest under choking clouds, mobsters with gats and tommy-guns fought pitched battles in the streets, crime and violence were everywhere, disenfranchisement, lynchings and cross burnings were rampant (and not just in the South). Across the sea, old governments disintegrated or were overthrown or fell into ineffectual chaos – and fascism took root among the ruins and the dark clouds of war gathered on the horizon.

And in that moment, a sickly bespectacled man, paralyzed from the waist down by the ravages of polio, stood on the East Portico of the United States Capitol Building and raised his right hand before Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and took the Oath of Office. 

And after he was sworn in, President Roosevelt turned to the gathered crowd, to the nation via radio, and spoke of fear. He called it out, that fear, as nameless, unreasoning, unjustified. After that first paragraph, FDR addressed the root cause of the nation’s misery and placed blame exactly where it belonged, on the unbridled avarice of Wall Street. Roosevelt went on to speak of unemployment and America’s role on the world stage and the hard work that lay ahead – but it was the line about fear that people remembered, and still remember to this day.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

That statement made an entire nation stop and take stock of itself.

What Roosevelt meant was that while the nation – and the world – faced significant problems, all of them were manageable. All of the problems could be solved, overcome, beaten. The nation, the government, the people, needed to work together, they needed to roll up their sleeves and get busy solving the issues, instead of cowering alone in fear and panic and depression.

There were those who took Roosevelt at his word, they found hope and courage and they put aside their fear and went out and started fixing problems as best they were able. They weren’t always successful, but when they failed, instead mewling in fear and complaining that nothing could be done, they looked at that crippled man in his wheelchair and they remembered his words and then they just kept trying something else until the problem was fixed. Then they went on to the next thing. 

These people heard the new President’s words and they faced their fears and they went out and with the help of each other and their government they rebuilt the nation. They built the very things that define America today, from social safety nets to the national parks to the great public projects we take for granted every single day and can’t imagine America without.

Predictably, of course, there were also those who quailed in fear at Roosevelt’s admonishment not to be afraid.  They fell to gibbering fearfully about the New Deal and the government and unions and Social Security and the new Securities and Exchange Commission among other things. When they didn’t have something concrete to fear, they made up terrors to be afraid of like children paralyzed by an imaginary bogeyman in the closet – and rather than get up and throw open the closet door and face their imaginary dread, they spent the night cowering under the covers like my stupid white cat peering fearfully out from under the couch.

These people heard the new President’s words and they embraced their fears and then they went out and did everything they could to delay, hamper, and obstruct the government and the recovery at every turn – all the while directly benefitting from the very projects and efforts they decried, projects and programs and efforts that their children and grand children still benefit from eighty years later.

The more things change, right?

The same exact political parties and ideologies who were afraid back then are the same exact people who are afraid of the same exact things today.

Eighty years later, almost to the day, and they’re still paralyzed by the same nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.

And their fears are almost exactly word for word the same as those of their grandparents.

And if they don’t have something to fear, they invent things to be afraid of.

Case in point: in the previous post I mentioned Georgia GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart, who is afraid that straight people might enter into gay marriage in order to obtain health insurance.

"You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow. Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”

Like this is a real thing.

Like this actually happens.

Like this is actually something we should be afraid of.

Like straight people actually get gay-married solely in order to obtain healthcare – and like it would actually matter if they did.

Like Georgians actually have this conversation: “Well, dang it all, Sue Bob, you know I love y’all and I’d marry you if’n I could and make an honest woman of you and your four kids by four other different men that you met at the bowling alley, but, see, my best friend Cooter needed that hernia surgery. And he didn’t have no insurance because that Obamer fella done ruint The Best Healthcare System In The World with that socialism stuff.  So me and Cooter, we got gay-married so my insurance would pay fer fix’n his balls. Bros before Ho’s, darlin’. Now me an’ Cooter was gonna get us an annulment right after the surgery, but the preacher wants us to try couples counseling first and see if’n we can maybe work it out…”

Yes, let’s all be afraid of that.

Because, yeah, that’s gonna happen.

Meanwhile there’s two married gay conservatives, Log Cabin Republicans I suppose, sitting around in their fabulous living room complaining about how straight people are totally ruining gay marriage: “Fine, fine. I don’t care what they don’t do in the privacy of their own separate and sexless bedrooms. Ok. That’s their right, if they don’t want to go to Hell, fine by me. Fine. But why can’t they just be happy with domestic partnerships? I don’t care what you say, if it’s two straight guys they can’t be gay-married. Gay-marriage is between one gay dude and another gay dude, damnit!”

Because, see, gay conservatives. Get it?

But I digress.

Because with all the problems the world faces at the moment, being afraid that straight people might be getting gay-married for health insurance is right up there with, um, well, you know, being afraid that gay people getting married will somehow queer your straight relationship.

Straight people might get gay-married?

Honestly, what the fuck?

Talk about just making up idiotic nonsense to be afraid of. 

You’ve got to reach down a long, long way past a whole lot of actual problems before you get to “Oh Noes! Straight people might get gay-married in order to defraud the taxpayers!”

And Jesus Haploid Christ, if they’re afraid of that, well then what aren’t these people afraid of?

Seriously?

Because, just like my stupid white cat with his little peanut-sized brain, they seem to be afraid of just about everything.

They’re afraid of the government. They’re afraid of the president, they’re afraid of congress, they’re afraid of the judges. They’re afraid of socialism. They’re afraid of Nazis and communists. They’re afraid of liberals and progressives and RINOs and feminists and Prius-driving vegetarians. They’re afraid of their neighbors. They’re afraid of the North and afraid of the South and afraid of people from Chicago, and New York and Washington D.C. and California. They’re afraid of gangs and crime and terrorism.  They’re afraid of know-it-all college educated long hairs. They’re afraid of political correctness and affirmative action. They’re afraid of minorities and they’re afraid of immigrants and they’re afraid of uppity blacks and strong-willed women and smart Asians and dirty Latinos and murderous Muslims. They fear their own supposedly loving God and they’re afraid of everybody else’s deity too. They’re afraid of the Rapture and the Anti-Christ and the End Times. They’re afraid of Sharia Law and they’re afraid of the Pope and afraid of the Jews – and yet they’re afraid of atheists too. They’re afraid of immorality and pornography and the internet and cable TV and that Rock&Roll music. They’re afraid of social media, they’re afraid of Twitter and Facebook and the bloggers and the Goddamned lamestream media. They’re afraid the military might just take over and they’re afraid that the military isn’t powerful enough. They’re afraid of death and afraid of taxes. They’re afraid of science, of evolution and climate models and plate tectonics and carbon dating and sex education. They’re afraid of abortion and birth control and the morning after pill, but at the same time they’re also afraid people might be having sex and they’re afraid “those” people might be having a whole bunch of welfare babies that they’re afraid they’ll have to pay for. They’re afraid of North Korea and China and the long defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. They’re afraid that somebody might be coming to take all their guns and they’re afraid of all the crazy people with guns and they’re afraid that the government has too many guns.  They’re afraid of being poor but they’re afraid of the rich too. They’re afraid of the Bilderbergs and the Illuminati and the New World Order. They’re afraid of the the banksters and yet they’re deathly afraid of any laws that might restrict those self same power brokers. They’re afraid of losing their entitlements and they’re afraid the undeserving want entitlements too and more than anything they’re afraid that somebody somewhere might be getting something for nothing on the taxpayer dime, but they’re afraid of making those same “takers” pay for their own healthcare.  They’re afraid of chemicals in their food and genetically engineered crops, but they’re afraid of laws requiring that those same ingredients be fully disclosed by food producers because they’re afraid that might be bad for business. They’re afraid of obesity and heart disease and that our kids are a generation of blubbery little couch potatoes, but they’re afraid of Mayor Bloomberg and Michelle Obama.  They’re afraid of Hollywood violence and yet they’re also afraid that Sesame Street might be making their kids into prancing pacifist pisswillies. They’re afraid we’ll run out of oil or that some America hating dictator somewhere will cut the oil off – and yet at the same time they’re afraid of solar panels and wind towers and electric cars.

What it comes down to is this: they’re afraid of the past and they’re afraid of the present and they’re afraid for the future.

I could go on, but frankly this endless parade of depressing dread,  this nameless unreasoning unjustified terror, this fear of fear, is getting more than a little tedious.

For these people fear has become habit.

Their fearful grandparents were wrong eighty years ago and they’re still wrong today.

They’ve always been with us, the fearful.  They were here right at the beginning of the country, back then they were telling us how nothing could be done, that we’d better not make problems for Ol’ King George, that we should be afraid. And after it was over, after America had won her freedom, they were afraid to admit that they’d be afraid to join up in the first place.

They were here eighty years ago when FDR gave his speech, back then they were telling us to fear our neighbors and our government and the bogeyman in the closet, that the problems couldn’t solved, that the nation was done for.

And they’re here with us today. And it’s the same old fear. Yesterday, for example, instead of facing the problem of gun violence with courage and a will to find real workable solutions, a handful of cowards in the Senate attempted to filibuster the debate so they could hide from the problem. Because they were afraid. Case in point, Democrat from Alaska Mark Begich – who isn’t actually opposed to gun control, but who is absolutely terrified of getting thrown out of office by angry gun toting Sarah Palin worshipping Alaskans.  So much for principles. 

You can’t fix the problem if you can’t talk about it.

Hell, you can’t even define what the problem is, if you can’t talk about it.

Begich has just about as much fortitude as my white cat. He’s a long-tailed cat in a state full of Conservative rocking chairs. The look on his face yesterday makes me think he ought to be peering wild eyed out from under a couch.

The fact of the matter is this: There is nothing to fear.

None of the problems we face require divine intervention.  We don’t need to do a rain dance or beseech God to deliver us or to smite our enemies. We’re fully capable of solving our problems on our own. Asking God to solve our problems, to just wave his big magic God stick and make it all better, is a childish cop out.  It’s an admission of cowardice and an inability to face the world and roll up your sleeves and take care of business.

None of the problems require us to secede or for us to dissolve the Union or declare an end to the grand experiment.  That’s the coward’s way out.  Democracy takes courage and will and effort. Quitting takes none of those things.

None of these problems require revolution or taking our guns to Washington or shooting down our neighbors. Our ancestors rebelled against tyranny, and after they had won their freedom they designed themselves a system of government that was based on compromise, on flexibility, on courage and intellect and reason. They built us a system that could be changed without revolution, without war and bloodshed and killing our neighbors. That was the whole damned point.

Of the problems we face today, gun violence, North Korea, climate change, energy, the economy, jobs, all are solvable.  Every single one. Many of these problems have more than one solution. And if we don’t get it right the first time, we’ll keep at it until we do get it right – providing we face the problem instead of cowering under the couch like my stupid white cat.

Up above, I said that I didn’t bring the ShopKat into my house because I didn’t want her to be afraid, I didn’t want her to learn it from the other cats.  I didn’t want her to pick up the indoor cats’ fear, their everyday terror at mundane things, the nameless shapeless dread that defines their very existence. 

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the reverse might happen, that Stupid and Tubby would draw courage from the little fearless ShopKat and stop jumping at their own tails.

I don’t know.

It’s hard to tell with cats.

But, see, here’s the thing, we are not cats.

Fear, like hatred, is learned. And, again like hatred, fear becomes habit.

Cats may be slaves to their nature, but we are not – at least we don’t have to be.

We can choose.

In the end, you can choose to be afraid.

Or you can choose to be fearless.

It’s entirely up to you.

 

 

 

 

 


You can find the entire text of FDR’s inaugural address here, along with an audio recording. I highly recommend that every American read the transcript. If you didn’t know better, the world, the fear, that Roosevelt describes could be right here, right now, today.

As I said, the more things change…

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April Fools: Various And Sundry

The week began with Aprils Fools Day.

April Fools.

Google suckered folks in with Google Nose, a new feature that would supposedly allow users to search the Internet by smell – which seems like a really neat idea until you realize that you would be searching the Internet. By smell.

Twitter outraged the blogosphere by announcing that they would start charging $5 a month for vowels – cheapskates could still use the free version of the micro-blogging service, apparently now renamed “Twttr.”

Video sharing site Vimeo changed its name to “Vimeow” and declared that they would traffic exclusively in LOLcat videos – frankly, I thought that might be an improvement, but then I realized I was just being catty, in a dogged sort of way.

The British newspaper The Guardian announced new augmented-reality glasses with “anti-bigotry technology” that when used with the print version of the paper were supposed to filter out bias – Rupert Murdock attempted something similar, but when the glasses were used with his media, readers complained that they could only see a blank sheet of cheap paper…

NPR ran a piece about an oral history project dedicated to preserving the war stories of US Navy dolphins (now retired to a water park in Belleville, Illinois), while lamenting how Rescue Bunnies from the Korean War were largely forgotten.

And, of course, The Onion, The Daily Currant, and a number of other humor sites managed to fool the usual number of people.

You’d think folks would catch on by now.

But in all fairness, it turns out that distinguishing humorous satire from serious reality isn’t as nearly as easy as it would seem.

For example, did you know that you can’t buy a Tesla electric car in Texas?

It’s true.

Tesla has a “gallery” in Houston where they can display their cars, but there is no store or dealership in the Lone Star state because Tesla isn’t allowed to sell cars in Texas. There’s actually a state law that prohibits the company from selling its automobiles.

April fools, right?

Nope.

Texas is afraid of what would happen to capitalism if established auto-dealerships had to compete with Tesla’s direct-to-market business model.  So the state government prevents Tesla and other similar car manufactures from selling their products there.

Viva the Free Market! Texas style. Remember, Folks, it’s only Nazi Socialism when Obama does it.

OK, how about this? Which one of the following statements refers to same sex marriage?

"They cannot possibly have any progeny, and such a fact sufficiently justifies those laws which forbid the marriage of _____ ."

or

"By the laws of Massachusetts ____marriages between _____ are forbidden as criminal. Why forbidden? Simply because natural instinct revolts at it as wrong."

or

"Although there is no verse in the Bible that dogmatically says that _____ should not_____ marry, the whole plan of God as He has dealt with_____ down through the ages indicates that_____ marriage is not best for man."

or

"I believe that the tendency to classify all persons who oppose _____ as 'prejudiced' is in itself a prejudice. Nothing of any significance is gained by such a marriage."

Well? Which one?

Give up?

Ha! April Fools! It’s a trick question – none of the quotes refer to same sex marriage.

All four quotes were made in reference to inter-racial marriage. The first one comes from an 1883 Missouri court case, State v. Jackson, which argued that laws forbidding marriage between blacks and whites were fully justified because such “marriages” “couldn’t possibly” produce children. The second quote is from Senator James Rood Doolittle (D-WI) in 1863, who despite being a big supporter of President Lincoln’s Civil War policies, including Emancipation, wasn’t a big fan of seeing blacks equal to whites and who strongly opposed ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment. The third is a statement issued by Bob Jones University in 1998, which said that even though it wasn’t specifically mentioned in the bible, inter-racial marriage was still contrary to God’s plan – apparently God forgot to mention a number of important issues when handing down His Law, but, as usual when it comes to this sort of thing, I digress. And the last quote is from a Friend of the Court Briefing filed during Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court Case that finally legalized inter-racial marriage as a civil right.

Funny thing, swap in “same-sex” or “gay” for the deleted race-specific words, and those quotes can be found nearly verbatim in any statement opposed to gay marriage today.

The more things change, right?

Speaking of which, Georgia GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart warned that straight people might enter into fraudulent gay marriages to obtain insurance benefits.

"You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow. Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”

Yes, you read that correctly, Everhart is worried that straight people might get gay married solely in order to get healthcare.

Everhart is convinced that same-sex marriage is really about getting a free-ride on the government. Liberals, you know, always looking for a free-ride.

Except, of course, that part where even if you did get gay married, or even regular married, just so you could get insurance benefits, well, see, you’re still paying for them – so the whole fraud thing doesn’t actually hold water, but again, I digress.

In the same interview, Everhart went on to say that she couldn’t understand how two gay people could even have sex.

"If it was natural, they would have the equipment to have a sexual relationship."

 

 

I’ll pause for a moment so y’all can fully savor the part where a Southern Evangelical conservative finally agrees with Bill Clinton that he did not, in fact, have sex with that woman.

 

 

What?

What’s that you say?

That’s different?

How? How is it different? They might have had “the equipment” as specified by Sue Everhart, but Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski weren’t using it any differently than a same sex couple might and if it’s not sex between members of the same sex, then it’s not sex between members of the opposite sex.

You can’t have your intern and eat her too. Or rather you can –  if you’ve got the equipment. I’m just saying.

Listen, here’s the thing, if you’re really, and I mean really, worried that straight people might have to resort to getting gay married in order to obtain affordable healthcare, well, there’s an obvious solution for that: mandated universal healthcare with a single payer option.

You know, like they have in civilized countries.

But there I go, digressing. Again.

And as long as we’re talking about God and the South, Republicans in North Carolina want to declare a state religion.

House Joint Resolution 494, filed by State Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford, would refuse to acknowledge the US Constitution’s separation of church and state in North Carolina.  And in fact, if you read the resolution closely you’ll see that it goes beyond just the First Amendment, Warren, Ford and nine other Republican members of the North Carolina House want the right to refuse Federal Court rules on any Constitutional topic:

"The Constitution of the United States does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional; therefore, by virtue of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the power to determine constitutionality and the proper interpretation and proper application of the Constitution is reserved to the states and to the people”.

"Each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion.”

“SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.”

“SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.”

I wonder if this means the Second Amendment could be considered null and void in North Carolina too?

A state religion.

Damn those stinking Muslims and their crazy beliefs, trying to impose Sharia law on us, trying to force Islam down our throats! They’re trying to turn America into Iran! Those Taliban bastar…

Wait. What?

They’re Christians you say?

Oh, well, then that’s totally different.

 

I’ll pause so you can ponder for a moment why it’s actually not, any different, I mean.

 

A state religion.

Riiiight.

Listen, I’d be all for it if it was Frisbeetarianism (you believe that when you die, your soul gets caught in a gust of wind and lands on the roof and you can’t get it down without a step ladder. There’s also Killer Frisbeetarianism, but that’s practiced mostly by college kids).

What?

Oh, right, you eat the flesh of your 2000 year old dead prophet and symbolically drink his blood, but Frisbeetarianism is silly. Got it.

Fine, let’s just see what the North Carolina Constitution says about this, shall we?

Article 1, Section 5 of the North Carolina Constitution: "Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution and government of the United States, and no law or ordinance of the State in contravention or subversion thereof can have any binding force."

Well, shit, y’all.

So much for that idea.

But, hey, at least recently announced GOP efforts to “reach out” to Democrat voters are making advances on other fronts.

Like the one where Alaska Republican Representative Don Young referred to Latinos publicly as “wetbacks” on state radio.  Ouch.

Like the one where an Idaho high school teacher found himself in hot water this week for using a controversial word during a tenth grade biology class on human reproduction. That word was “vagina.”  Because when you’re discussing human reproduction, you’re not allowed to name the naughty bits – in Idaho, kids aren’t allowed to learn the names for their various body parts until they join the military and get some shore leave in Thailand. Apparently the teacher was supposed to tell the kids that babies are found under cabbage leaves or delivered by FEDEX. 

Like the one where Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus wrote an article for the Uber conservative right-wing website Red State in which he declared President Obama, and indeed all Democrats, guilty of mass infanticide.

Now Priebus didn’t out and out accuse liberals of cheerfully tossing screaming babies into the ovens, not exactly. What he said was that Democrats support funding for Planned Parenthood. And Planned Parenthood loves killing babies. Ergo Democrats believe newborns have no rights and can be killed without consequence. Because obviously that’s what liberals believe, right?

Right.

“The President, the Senate Majority Leader, the House Democratic Leader, and the Chair of the Democratic National Committee (in whose home state this hearing occurred) made funding Planned Parenthood an issue in the 2012 campaign. They should now all be held to account for that outspoken support. If the media won’t, then voters must ask the pressing questions: Do these Democrats also believe a newborn has no rights? Do they also endorse infanticide?”

I know what you’re thinking: What a minute, how did we get from abortion, i.e. terminating a fetus in the uterus, to killing newborns – which by definition exist alive outside the womb?

Because that would indeed be infanticide.

Yeah. See Priebus is playing at the camel and the tent (um, okay, that’s a bad metaphor, but you know what I mean). He quotes an exchange between Alisa LaPolt Snow, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood, and Florida lawmakers who were arguing a bill before the legislature that would require emergency life-saving medical care for a fetus, if that fetus was removed from the uterus and inadvertently remained alive during an abortion procedure.

Rep. Jim Boyd: “If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?”

Snow: “We [Planned Parenthood] believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician.”

Rep. Daniel Davis: “What happens in a situation where a baby is alive, breathing on a table, moving? What do your physicians do at that point?”

Snow: “I do not have that information. I am not a physician. I am not an abortion provider. So I do not have that information.”

Rep. Jose Oliva: “You stated that a baby born alive on a table as a result of a botched abortion that that decision should be left to the doctor and the family. Is that what you’re saying?”

Snow: “That decision should be between the patient and the health care provider.”

Oliva: “I think that at that point the patient would be the child struggling on the table, wouldn’t you agree?”

Snow: “That’s a very good question. I really don’t know how to answer that. I would be glad to have some more conversations with you about this.”

Somehow Priebus gets from “I don’t know, I don’t have the expertise to answer your question, you may be correct, you maybe incorrect, but I’d be happy to discuss this unusual situation with with you further” to “OMG! OBAMA IS KILLING BABIES!”

But then it always comes down to Obama killing babies, doesn’t it?

Me?

I don’t know. I’m no particular fan of abortion, but like Planned Parenthood’s argument I don’t see where it’s my decision to make.

I think the people making the decision should be the same people who made the baby – with medical professionals in an advisory role. I think the person who owns the uterus should have the final say. I think that the state, the goddamned church, and anybody who wasn’t directly involved in the conception should mind their own damned business. 

As I’ve said elsewhere, the morality of abortion bothers me very little, either way. Thousands of children die unlamented every day, when the right-to-life crowd pulls the beam out of their own eye and starts doing something about that, I’ll allow that they’re sincere in their beliefs. Until then, I’ve got no use for their hypocrisy.  

That said, I wonder about the scenario described by the Florida legislature, i.e. a living fetus outside the womb as a result of a botched abortion.  The proposed Florida law would declare that baby legally human and grant it all the rights of any other citizen – including the right not to be terminated out of hand.

I don’t know what to think about that, to be perfectly honest.

I find it somewhat ironic that this would be the case in Florida of all states, you know the place where you’re only considered human and worthy of sanctuary if you can reach shore alive.

Certainly this situation deserves detailed examination. Perhaps, like boat people reaching the safety of the Florida beach, a fetus that survives an abortion attempt should be granted personhood and afforded protection under the law. Or perhaps not, perhaps the level of damage is so high, so extensive, that death may be preferable. I honestly don’t know. I strongly suspect every situation would be different, requiring those on the scene, parents, medical experts, those responsible, to make the difficult decision – instead of the distant state, instead of politicians, instead of the goddamned clergy, instead of the mob.

Again, I certainly don’t know. I’m glad that I don’t have to make that decision. My deepest and most sincere sympathies to those who do.

I find many hypocrisies big and small on this subject, but the one I find most ironic is that those who advocate loudest for small government and personal responsibility are perfectly willing to impose their will and ideology on others with the full force of the United States government when it comes to abortion.

Like Alisa LaPolt Snow I think we ought to talk about it in a rational manner – and I think we should be able to do it without calling the President a baby killer.

And on the subject of killing kids, I see that gun control is all but dead in the United States Congress.

I hate to say I told you so, but, well, I told you so right here in The Seven Stages of Gun Violence. Nothing much has changed, except the death toll.

An overwhelming majority of Americans support universal background checks for all gun purchases. Even if they can’t agree on anything else, they agree on that.  But background checks will not make it out of congress. What happened? What happened is that the check cleared, that’s what happened. The simple truth of the matter is that gun manufacturers and the gun lobby can buy more politicians than you can, it’s really just that simple, and no amount of dead kids will change that fact. Period. Since I wrote The Seven Stages of Gun Violence, the NRA has spent more than $2 Million buying politicians, the gun-control lobby spent around fifty thousand during the same period. And so it goes.

The good news is that the gun nuts are going forward with their plan to require NRA trained and armed teachers in every American school.

That’s what America needs, Ted Nugent training the staff of your kid’s school.

Boy, if that doesn’t make you want to shit your pants, I don’t know what will.

As I said up above, when the right-to-lifers actually start supporting life, I’ll start listening.

Obama announced a new national initiative this week to map the human brain.  Skeptical neurologists say that that the program is too ambitious, that the regular human brain is too complex and that we should start with something simpler – say like Ted Nugent.

And on a final note: scientists reportedly have discovered the actual Gate to Hell.

And apparently it’s in Turkey, not Texas.

No foolin’