Thursday, June 28, 2012

Winners and Losers: The Affordable Care Act

Bet you didn’t see that decision coming, did you?

I know I didn’t.

Over the last couple of weeks a number of readers have written asking me why I haven’t been speculating on the (then) pending Supreme Court decision regarding the Affordable Care Act.

I haven’t speculated on the pending decision because guessing which way the Supreme Court will jump, especially given the makeup of this particular bench, is a sucker’s bet.

And Today’s decision on Obamacare is a pretty good example of that.

Look at the last two weeks, it’s as if the Supreme Court is suffering from some kind of identity disorder:

First a win for traditionally conservative interests, i.e. Wall Street, SuperPACS, the wealthy with bag loads of money to throw against whatever political cause they feel like, in other words pretty much everybody other than the individual American that this country is supposed to be about.  Now to be completely honest, the decision I’m talking about is a win for Unions as well, but by definition Unions look out for what’s best for their own interests as organizations, not the interests of the individual.  The decision we’re talking about here is the court’s rejection of corporate spending limits for political campaign contributions. Despite two years of having to live with the obvious threat to nearly every aspect of individual the liberty the United States was founded to protect and nurture, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to reconsider its 2010 Citizens United ruling. The vote was split along party lines with the four liberals dissenting from the decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority declared that independent expenditures by corporations "do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." Unlimited money doesn’t give rise to corruption? Unlimited and anonymous money doesn’t give rise to the appearance of corruption? Seriously? The overt and obvious signs of corruption in our political system resulting from unfettered corporate money are all around us right now, in every direction you care to look, in every level of the process from local to state to federal elections. Whether there is real corruption or not, the vast majority of Americans certainly believe that there is – come here to Alaska and ask us if we think Juneau has been corrupted by oil money. Look at Grover Norquist’s direct control over more than half of the elected legislature. What gives him more right, more power, more influence than any other citizen? Money, pure and simple. Ditto the Koch brothers. Ditto Rupert Murdock and Donald Trump and every other mover and shaker.  If you think your vote is equal to theirs, you’re an idiot. But five members of the court appear to be utterly oblivious to this fact and equally blind to the negative impact it is having on the citizenry’s confidence in their government, not to mention its direct contribution to the growing bitter partisan divide in this country. A better argument for justices getting out of their ivory tower every once in a while there never was. But, for now, corporations and PACS and unions will remain people, rich supremely powerful people whose rights and votes and influence far, far, far outweigh that of any other ten thousand individual citizens combined. The Court’s refusal to reconsider the Citizens United decision effectively fractions America into castes, everybody has one vote but all votes are not equal and not all votes count. The results of this inequality are readily apparent in the current election cycle and it’s only going to get worse. In fact, it’s getting worse even as we speak. An obvious sign is that like the nightly body counts during the Vietnam War, the media now obsessively broadcasts daily updates on political fundraising totals, pitting the size of one side’s cash pot against the other in a measure of political value and popularity. America has been teetering on the verge of a de facto plutocracy almost from the beginning, but Citizens United made it official in name as well as deed and removed any limits on it. Corporations and big money interests, both domestic and foreign funded, don’t even have to pretend anymore. People are wound up about the Affordable Care Act, but the Citizens United decision is going to have a far more detrimental and far longer lasting impact on their basic freedoms than any provision in Obamacare and has already reshaped our nation in a manner that bodes unwell for the average citizen. A thousand years hence, when history looks back on the ruins of the great experiment, Citizen’s United will be where scholars draw the line and say “here, right here, was when the republic began to die.” 

But then, in a sort of win for the liberals, the Supreme Court struck down automatic life sentences without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders. Again in a five to four decision (Kagan, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor vs Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito), the court ruled that it is unconstitutional for states to impose mandatory life in prison sentences for juveniles convicted of first degree murder. They didn’t say judges couldn’t impose such a sentence, only that they didn’t have to. “We hold that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishment,"' said Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the opinion for the majority.

On the same day the court acknowledged that even juvenile murderers have some basic civil rights, they announced that people of color don’t – at least in Arizona. Sort of. Maybe. Or maybe not. The court struck down three key parts of the Arizona immigration law: 1) the provision making it a crime for an illegal to work or even seek work in Arizona, 2) the provision which authorized state and local police to arrest people without a warrant if the officer felt the person in question might be an illegal, and 3) the provision which would have required Jews immigrants to register with the government and wear a Star of David on their clothing. The liberal media trumpeted the decision as “Victory for Obama, SCOTUS strikes down key provisions of Arizona Immigration law!”  However, conservative outlets phrased it as “Loss for Obama, SCOTUS upholds key provision of Arizona Immigration Law!” because the Court left intact the part of the law that requires police officers to verify the citizenship status of anyone they stop for “legitimate” reasons if they suspect that person might be an illegal.  Supporters claim this won’t lead to racial profiling and they’re right, it won’t – because Arizona law enforcement is already profiling people they deem suspicious, you can’t be led to something if you’re already there. Doh.

And then in a decision that flabbergasted military veterans such as yours truly, SCOTUS handed a victory to lying shitbags everywhere by striking down the Stolen Valor Act.  Anybody may now legally claim to be a SEAL, an Airborne Ranger, a Medal of Honor recipient, or any other flavor of veteran they like to whatever fraudulent end they desire even if they’ve never served a day in the military, let alone seen combat.  I expect that every politician in congress will now suddenly remember that they are a highly decorated war hero instead of the craven recipient of five draft deferments, but I digress.  I, like many other veterans, cannot begin to describe how utterly disgusted I am by this blatant ass rape of the First Amendment but I’m not surprised. After all it’s perfectly legal for Fox News to make up whatever nonsense they like and claim that it’s “Fair and Balanced” so it wasn’t any great shock when SCOTUS decided that identity theft is ok, so long as it’s a only a military member’s honor and integrity you’re stealing, you know the only goddamned things that really matter to us. But hey, on the bright side so far as I know, it’s still illegal to pretend to be a judge.

If you’ve been keeping track that’s one and a half for conservatives, one and half for liberals, and one for lying shitbags of either persuasion.

So, yeah, as I said, attempting to guess which way this bizarrely schizophrenic court would rule on the Affordable Care Act wasn’t something I was willing to engage in.

Now that the decision has been handed down, I’ll say quite frankly that I thought that the best the President could hope for would be that at least a few of the more popular provisions of the act would be upheld.  Worst case for Obama, of course, would have been for the entire thing to have been struck down.  Frankly I was prepared for the later.

And I think today’s ruling vindicates my caution.

Because I don’t think anybody saw this decision coming.

Nearly every prediction by nearly every pompously overinflated self-important pundit, prognosticator, politician, and prominent personality was incorrect. Of course, they’re all busy right now explaining how they didn’t really say what they clearly said and that they totally knew that the law would be upheld (of course, of course) but it’s still unconstitutional and socialist and spawned from Hitler’s ass sweat.

Both FoxNews and CNN were so eager to be the first trumpeting Obama’s supposed failure that they blundered full speed straight into a Dewey Defeats Truman moment like the Titanic plowing full steam into the iceberg. Within seconds of the announcement CNN’s on-screen news ticker blared, “BREAKING NEWS: INDIVIDUAL MANDATE STRUCK DOWN! Supreme Court finds measure unconstitutional.”  At the same time Fox News’ ticker was gleefully broadcasting, “SUPREME COURT FINDS HEALTHCARE INIDIVIDUAL MANDATE UNCONSTITUTIONAL.”  CNN later apologized and issued a mea culpa. Fox News took a different tack, Fox’s executive vice president issued a statement explaining how they weren’t actually wrong, just reporting the “news” as it broke, so it was really their viewers’ fault for not understanding the nature of the situation, and besides other networks sucked even more, so there – or words to that effect.

Predictably Sarah Palin clenched up her sinewy red, white, and blue butt cheeks and squeezed out a star spangled tweet, “He said it wasn’t a tax. Obama lies; freedom dies.”  Because, as I’m sure you know, freedom and liberty can only survive when a significant fraction of the population are uninsured – I think Ben Franklin or John Wayne said that. Or maybe it was Grover Norquist.  Question, if freedom dies when a president lies, how is it that freedom managed to survive Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton amongst others of recent note? Hello? Is this thing on? But I digress.

Following Palin’s lead, conservatives took to Twitter to express their outrage, making the SCOTUS ruling the top trending topic within minutes of its issue. In accordance with their stated principle of “America, love it or leave it,” many of them declared their intention to leave for a land where socialist healthcare won’t be forced down their throats. Canada. 

Yes, you may go ahead and make the facepalm. I’ll wait.

The usual pundits have designated Chief Justice Roberts as a traitor and enemy of America. Glenn Beck called Roberts a coward (ironically, Beck usually sings Roberts’ praises. No greater wrath than sweaty man-love scorned, I guess). Beck is offering t-shirts for sale on his website with Roberts’ face printed over the word “Coward” – because apparently that’s what you call a guy who stands up to his entire party and ideology.  Frankly, I’m not sure that Beck understands what the word actually means, but then I’m not sure Beck understands what a lot of words mean.

When Karl Rove wrote his memoir, Courage and Consequence, he devoted an entire chapter to how he, the only non-lawyer in the room, had the keen intellect and the penetrating insight into human nature to select John Roberts from other, more liberal, candidates and promote him to President George W. Bush for nomination to the bench.  Be sure to send Karl and George a thank you note, won’t you?

Louisiana’s Governor, Bobby “Jeff Davis” Jindal, declared rebellion, “We’re not going to start implementing Obamacare. We’re committed to working to elect Governor Romney to repeal Obamacare. Here in Louisiana we have not applied for the grants, we have not accepted many of these dollars, we’re not implementing the exchanges.” Because, really, screw the poor and uninsured – in both categories of which, poor and uninsured, Louisiana leads most of the nation.  My own state governor, Sean “Little Sarah” Parnell, here in Alaska – a state with a huge percentage of uninsured – is considering a similar course.  So are the other red states. Funny, isn’t it? How quickly those folks who claim to be the only true Americans, who declare their belief in the sacred institution of America, who claim to love the American system best of all, immediately turn their back on it and start talking about rebellion and secession and shooting their neighbors when they don’t get their way?

Within minutes of the announcement, Mitt Romney was on the air, his voice dull and defeated, bitter at the unfairness of it all, sounding for all the world like Tricky Dick declaring that we wouldn’t have Richard Nixon to kick around any more. Mitt proclaimed himself America’s only hope.  Elect me, he promised, and my first priority will be to repeal Obamacare – not fix the economy or create jobs or all the other stuff he’s been talking about, no his first priority will be to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something else, presumably Romneycare. Oh, the irony, but I digress again.  House and Senate Republicans echoed Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, “…the priority right now is to elect a new president and a new senate so this law can be repealed.” Really? That’s the priority? When the bridges fall down, when the poor go hungry, while Colorado burns and the housing market flounders and the jobless prowl the streets of America like emaciated zombies, and hundreds of thousands of shattered veterans wonder if they can really come home again, repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with something that looks pretty much exactly the same after a lengthy and protracted partisan battle is the priority? Really?

As they say on Mythbusters, well there’s your problem.

I was in traffic when the Court’s decision was announced, and you could certainly tell who was who. Liberals were all smiling and waving happily at each other, conservatives were beating their steering wheels and screaming in rage at the radio.

And that’s the real problem, right there.

Conservatives haven’t got a damned thing to rage about. Period. This law, like it or not, was written by the Legislature and passed by a majority of the House and Senate – and conservatives could have gotten involved in the process at any point, instead they acted like spoiled rotten petulant brats and refused. If conservative politicians don’t like the Affordable Care Act, they should have rolled up their sleeves and done their fucking jobs – that’s what they get paid for. If conservative citizens don’t like the Affordable Care Act, they should have demanded that their representatives get involved in the process instead screaming about Nazis and Kenyans and other such idiotic make believe bogymen.  The Act was signed into law by the Executive. It was challenged at all levels of the Judicial Branch – all the way up to the Supreme Court. This is how the system works. You don’t get to cherry pick the parts of America that you like and discard the rest. For better or worse, this is now the law of the land. Now it is certainly the right of Conservatives to work towards repeal, but here’s the thing so pay attention: the vast majority of Americans – something approaching more than eighty percent – want most of the things in the Affordable Care Act.  They want affordable healthcare. They want to be insured. They want their kids to be able to stay on their coverage until they can stand on their own. They want insurance companies brought to heel and prevented from dropping coverage for arbitrary reasons or condemning them to suffer and die for pre-existing conditions. They just don’t want Obama’s name on it. They’d rather watch their children die of untreated cancer than reform healthcare if Obama gets credit for it.  These are the same perverse idiots who decry freeloaders and the lazy shiftless poor getting access to “free” healthcare on the public dime and who constantly talk about forcing the poor and uninsured to take responsibility for themselves, but then start screaming about Nazis when the government passes a law that will make those same people buy their own health insurance. What they really want is for the government to tell everybody else what to do, but not them. 

Liberals haven’t got a damned thing to gloat about. Period.  Sure President Obama has a right to feel vindicated and democrats have a right to be happy for him, but this law is a huge infected sucking chest wound. It’s a piece of shit. It’s a kluge. It’s a mess.  Conservatives are right about that. As it stands it’s not going to make healthcare affordable. It’s going to make a lot of insurance companies unbelievably wealthy – and if you own stock in the insurance industry then you’ve already seen the surge in your portfolio, drinks my friend, are on you – but people who are barely hanging on have every right to be concerned about having to buy insurance or face a penalty on their tax return. It doesn’t matter whether you call it a tax or a fine or whatever, a lot of folks simply cannot afford even twenty bucks more in expenditures a month. Now supposedly there’s going to be financial help for these people, but they don’t know that. The economy is in the shitter, it’s an election year, Europe is teetering on the brink of collapse – people are scared and they’re frightened about the future.  Now they have to worry about how they’re going to pay for insurance. Sure it supposed to be affordable, sure the government is supposed to help and where have we heard that before and why should anybody believe it now? The Administration needs to do a hell of a lot better job addressing these concerns and they need to do it right now. 

Here’s the rest of it: The Supreme Court, including Justice Roberts, didn’t say the Affordable Healthcare Act was a good law. They didn’t say it was a bad law. Only that it was, mostly, constitutional. 

What it is, is a starting point.

The question of its legality has been resolved.

Those opposed to this law protest that the government has taken away their right to choose. Bullshit.

You have choices.

People who don’t have or can’t get medical coverage are the ones who don’t have choices. And those of us who have to pay for their visit to the emergency room every time their kid has a sore throat don’t have choices.

This law gives people choices.

I didn’t say they were great choices, but you didn’t have any good choices to begin with. Sometimes that’s just how life is. But what you need to bear in mind here is this: you, as an American, your shittiest choices are still a hell of a lot better than about what seventy percent of the rest of the world is faced with every single day – maybe you ought to go see for yourself sometime. Be prepared though, unless you’re a complete dick it’ll change how you see things, it sure did for me.  Regardless, you have choices. Good or bad, that’s the way it is, stop whining and deal with it.

And we, as a nation? We have two choices.

We can agree that healthcare is a basic human right for all Americans. We can agree that in a country as advanced and as rich and as exceptional as ours, that it is immoral and unethical and goddamned unAmerican to allow forty million of our fellow citizens to go without. 

Or Not.

Those are the choices.

If you believe the later option is the correct one, then stop your goddamned raging and bitching and complaining, vote for Ron Paul and let them die.  And you can live with the consequences, all of them.

If you’re split between the two choice and you think there ought to be some kind of overhaul but you just can’t stand the thought of liberals getting credit for it, quit bitching and get out there and vote for Mitt Romney, then you can spend the next four years refighting this same exact battle over the same exact ground until you get the same exact thing except you’ll be calling it Romneycare, The Do-Over. All it will cost you is another couple of hundred billion and four more years.

Or if you believe the first option is the correct one without qualification, then stop your goddamned gloating, vote for Barack Obama, and demand that the Affordable Care Act be overhauled until we get it right.

It is long past time to stop the talk of secession and rebellion and treason and cowardice and hatred and all the rest of it.  It’s time for our government, all of it, to start living up to its responsibilities. It’s time for citizens, all of us, to stop acting like a brainless mob and start living up to our role in the republic.

The one thing this country cannot afford, monetarily, politically, morally, is yet another vicious divide.

The truth of the matter that there are no winners and no losers in the Supreme Court’s ruling.

It’s simply a starting point, nothing more.

What comes next, good or bad, is up to us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Well, That Certainly Explains The Hate Mail



The previous post regarding outlaw vaginas has generated the expected hate mail.

Big surprise there.

As I’ve mentioned in the Hate Mail From Jesus post (which if you haven’t read it, you really should because it may save you wasted motion in the future), sending me hate mail is generally a futile exercise.

Not that that actually prevents silly people from sending me angry letters. 

I typically don’t read this crap, mostly because I really don’t give a fig if you hate me or not. I was in the military for more than two decades and I’ve been writing about politics here on Stonekettle Station for going on five years now, I’ve been hated on by professionals.  Frankly, my hate mail is generally predictable and not particularly imaginative.  I think we can all safely assume that I’ve been fully informed by my manifold critics that if the Rapture ever does finally happen I’ll be left behind to boogie with the devil and the other sinners. Barring square-dancing with Satan, if the gibbering Jesus monkeys do manage to “take back ‘Merica for real ‘Mericans” before the End Times, I will no doubt be shot out of hand or shipped off to the gulag with the other undesirables in the first purge. 

I’m good with either of these scenarios and I don’t spend much time dwelling on it.

However, that said, some folks really feel the need to keep telling me about how offended their deity was by something I wrote (why their deity doesn’t do something about it himself has never been adequately explained. But I digress).  I do find a certain degree of amusement in this, and so I do upon occasion read a selected sample of my correspondence – especially if the hate seems out of the ordinary.

Today I started getting messages from the faithful accusing me of extra special deviltry.

Something about me tricking their kids into reading about OMG! Vaginas! or OMG! Homosexuals! instead of Jesus.


I went back and checked yesterday’s post just in case I had accidently titled it “Hey Kids, Let’s Read About Jesus!”  It could happen. I’m getting old and according to one keen letter writer in the Hate Mail From Jesus post, war must have messed up my ”little atheist monkey brain” so, you know, better check. But nope, there it was big as life and in your face, VAGINA! In fact, I used the word twice in the title. I really couldn’t see how anybody could think that “When Vaginas Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Vaginas!” was a post about Jesus for kids.  I tried squinting my eyes to see if I could maybe make VAGINA look like JESUS (and you know people have seen him in stranger places. Also certain folks tend to shout out one when in the presence of the other) but not even a double shot of Bushmills could change water into wine if you get what I’m saying here.  Besides, if you’re letting your kids drink Irish whiskey, you probably aren’t the kind of parent who gives much of a shit if they surf the internet for vaginas.

Well, OK. So I checked the software that tracks who’s looking at what on my blog.

There were a lot of people looking at vaginas.

But wait, what’s this?

It seems I was getting traffic from a website called, wait for it, waaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiit for it, Stories of the Bible for Kids.

Stories of the bible for kids?

That’s when I began to giggle uncontrollably.



You can click on the image for a bigger and more readable version.


You know, I call Shenanigans. These people are all over my ass about use of the word vagina, but I’ve read the Bible – seems I remember something about a certain “valley of death” in the same sentence with finding comfort in your rod and staff

How come Jesus can make double entendres and I can’t?

Mote, beam, eye, folks. Just saying.


Hate mail, I get it.

Sometimes it’s hysterical.

Monday, June 25, 2012

When Vaginas Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Vaginas!


Even if this was not a law, which it is, I'm afraid I would have a lot of difficulty endorsing an enterprise which is as fraught with genuine peril as I believe this one to be. Besides the liquor and the drugs which always seem to accompany such an event the thing that distresses me even more, Ren, is the spiritual corruption that can be involved. These dances and this kind of music can be destructive, and, Ren, I'm afraid you're going to find most of the people in our community are gonna agree with me on this.
                                                               - Reverend Moore, 1984


You can't say that word in Michigan.

Well, not in Lansing anyway.

And certainly not in the statehouse.

By now, of course, you all know to which word and to what incident I’m referring.

During a recent debate on abortion rights in Michigan’s House of Representatives (can you still call it a debate if one side isn’t allowed to talk?), Democrat Lisa Brown was barred from speaking on the House floor for the remainder of the current legislative session, because she said:

Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my [offensive word that shall not be spoken aloud because it makes Jesus soggy and hard to light], but no means no!

The word, an immoral and vulgar term for a certain portion of the (excuse me) disgusting female anatomy (shudder), is offensive to conservatives as was Representative Brown’s implication that the law in question is considered by many women to be the equivalent of forcible violation (If you’re keeping score, this is yet another point certain Christians and certain Muslims have in common. One wonders when they’ll start taking long warm showers together, but I digress). The word is so offensive, in point of fact, that it shall not be spoken aloud in front of, not children or His Holiness or those prone to the vapors I do declare, but rather politicians (Which, tangentially, reminds me of a conversation I had with my son the other day regarding which dog treats to buy. The question being “How can an animal that licks its own butt and eats cat turds with such gusto be so picky when it comes to dog treats?” But I digress. Twice in one paragraph). Yes, the word is that offensive.  Use of the appalling label on the Michigan House floor by a woman embarrassed actual lawmakers (you know, men) and violated Michigan’s rules regarding decorum of the legislature. 

One conservative lawmaker was so overcome and offended he could barely speak about the incident, "I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company!"

Wouldn’t even want to say it in front of women.

Couldn’t bring himself to say it in mixed company.

My God! Somebody tell that uppity harlot to shut her filthy mouth!

I understand that Michigan’s Legislature will be requiring females wear burkas during the next session.  The good news is that women will still be allowed to serve in the state government – so long as they’re accompanied by a male relative at all times.  No word yet on whether or not they’ll be allowed to drive themselves to the capitol building.

The offensive word?

That word is vagina.

Yes, I said it.



Well of course I can say it without blushing ­­- even in mixed company. Heck, I probably know at least a dozen or two (or three) creative synonyms for that particular word. And given the proper tools, I’m pretty sure I could make an anatomically accurate sketch and tell a couple of crude yet funny stories on the subject too.  But hey that’s me.  I was in the Navy, I’ve had professional training.

In Michigan, you can safely say uterus and fetus and embryo on the House floor. You might be allowed to say “breasts” – if you’re ordering chicken.  You can utter the words heck and horse puckey and gosh darn it. You can, of course, call a gay man a fag, you can call the Muslims in Dearborn towel-heads, you can say the folks in Detroit are all welfare dependent [insert the quaint Michigan racial slur of your choice here].You can refer to Michiganders who don’t vote the conservative ticket as traitors and communists and baby killers and you can say the leader of the free world is a Nazi and Kenyan and a socialist.

And it goes without saying that you can always call somebody a dick – like, for instance, the Speaker of the Michigan State House, Republican Floor Leader Jim Stamas.

You can even get away with occasionally referring to the former democratic governor as a liberal cunt, as long as you do it under your breath and don’t smile – so they know you’re a patriot.

But don’t say the v-word (Which is really odd if you think about it, because where else is it more appropriate to use the word vagina but in a room full of douche-bags? But yet again, I digress).

This incident happened a week ago and I let it go by here on Stonekettle Station without so much as a snarky remark.  Others seemed to have it covered.

So, why bring it up now?

Well, because it’s spreading (Don’t. Don’t go there).

Lawmakers across the nation continue to make laws regulating human body parts and activities that they are too embarrassed and offended by to speak out loud. 

For example, Utah legislators just tried to pass a law that would have prohibited any discussion of contraception or homosexuality in high school sex education classes – because Utah Republicans are apparently under the impression that if a teacher mentions rubbers and gay people, students will suddenly chose teh gaysecks (It’s like 1984, if you don’t have the language for double plus ungoodness, you can’t be gay. Pass the Victory Gin, Winston). Not only would instructors have been prevented from discussing safe-sex practices, but they would have been prevented from even answering questions from students – because really, that’s what you want, right? Teachers shouldn’t be allowed to answer questions. Students shouldn’t get their education from a source of information trained in such things and not embarrassed to discuss it frankly if necessary.  No they should get it from parents and politicians who can’t even say the words out loud. Better yet, they can get it from old wives tales and euphemisms and Bristol Palin.

In other words, they’ll end up getting their sex education from other kids – and the internet, of course.

Oh yeah, let’s do that. Good idea. 

Because really, how bad could that be, right?

Utah’s law was vetoed by the governor, but meanwhile in Tennessee the banjo playing state government recently enacted a pro-abstinence sex education law billed as “the strictest in the nation.”

The Tennessee law forbids educators from “promoting gateway sexual activity.” 

Gateway sexual activity.

What the hell is gateway sexual activity?

Beats me (Don’t. Don’t go there), but surely since Tennessee felt strongly enough about it to put it into law, they must have defined the concept in the bill. Right?

Right. Here’s the funny part, conservative lawmakers and their vocal supporters, including those “experts” called in to give information in support of the bill, were so squeamish and embarrassed during floor debates that they were unable to discuss what exactly “gateway sexual activity” was

So it was left undefined.

That’s right, lawmakers made a law about something that they were too embarrassed to talk about.

Ah that thing? You know. That some people do? Where they, uh, do that thing, that sometimes makes, uh, uh, well, you know, uh well, like uh when a man puts his, uh, into the, ah, well, when mommies and daddies love each other very much and uh, the birds and the bees and the stork and some cabbage leaves? We need a law about that.  Because otherwise teachers might be putting the wrong ideas into our children’s, uh can I say “into” and “child” in the same sentence or do you have to be Catholic? And that’s where babies come from!  Also important safety tip: sex is really horrible and only a total whore who hates Jesus and is going to hell would enjoy it. Any questions? OK, write that down and we’ll have the Governor sign it.

Gateway sexual activity? 

What exactly are we talking about here? (or not talking about, as the case may be). 

No seriously, what are we talking about? Gateway sexual activity? What the hell is that? Dancing? Dating? Kissing?  Passing notes? Wearing makeup? And why am I hearing that goddamned theme song from Footloose? What’s next? The 2012 sex-ed equivalent of Reefer Madness?   That’s right, kids, sex is dangerous! One smooch outside of marriage, that’s how it always starts, it seems harmless but that’s how those filthy sex peddlers get you hooked! Then they cut you off, boy! Cut you off and then comes the insanity! Yes, insanity. Mark my words, fellows, one day you’ll find yourself fencing your grandmother’s bible for Mexican Viagra and a box of glow in the dark rubbers. Next thing you know you’ll be condemned to giving Satan blowjobs in Hell for all eternity! (can I say Satanic blowjobs, or do you have to be Catholic? What? I’m just asking is all, I don’t want to offend anybody).  One kiss, boys, one kiss and blam! You’re hooked, it’s like crack… ok, that’s a bad example but I think I’ve made my point here.

The basic idea being that Tennessean kids are so damned dumb and easily corrupted that if you show them a picture of a gay guy, they’ll turn gay. If you show them a condom and explain how it works, well, they’ll start screwing like bunnies and next thing you know, satanic blowjobs.

No really and you don’t have to go far to find Tennesseans who think so:


Yes. Even touching a girl is a sexual act. What was it that Oscar Wilde said? Oh yes, “Why don't Baptists have sex standing up? Because that might lead to dancing.” Wilde was likely paraphrasing the old Scots Highlander joke, Why don’t Protestants believe in shaggin’? ‘Cause it might lead to dancin’ but he might have been on to something.  I love how in the quote above, the commenter had to insert a pause before saying “SEXUAL”  and I swear I’m never going to get that goddamned Kenny Loggins song out of my head.

What if a nice gay couple wants to walk down the street holding each other's ding dongs?

Well, yeah, that’s exactly what happens if you let allow sex-ed to teach about contraception, next thing you know gay couples are roaming the streets holding onto each other’s woo woos. That’s a totally true fact, you can look it up on the Michigan State House website, because, really, who knows more about dick clutching than those guys?  (That’s also what happens when you don’t let people say vagina, supposedly normal adults end up using words like “ding dong” in actual conversation).

Tell them what they need to know about hormones, body changes, stds. Make sure they understand how pregnancy happens so boys don't get tricked into shot-gun weddings and so they don't think using saranwrap works

Really? People use Saran Wrap? Come to think of it, that might explain why I see so many high school kids in the cooking aisle at the grocery store on prom night – and why the chick with all the body piercings was picking out a roll of heavy duty Reynold’s Wrap. Boy, you think tinfoil gives you a shock when you bite down on it with fillings. Honestly through, how about a sex-ed class that is primarily orientated towards keeping boys from having to go through a shotgun wedding? I bet you’d learn a few new words for vagina in that curriculum.  But I digress.

The Tennessee law is so vague when it comes to the definition of “gateway sexual activity” that critics dubbed it the “No holding hands act” because under the law you could conceivably say that any school that allows handholding between the sexes is enabling teenage sexual activity.

It’ll be a bit while educators and law enforcement figure out the ramifications, but I think certain implications are obvious:

Cops will have to start checking MP3 players for illegal copies of The Beatles I wanna hold your hand.

Anybody caught teaching their dog to “shake” will need to be investigated for bestiality.

Crossing your arms could lead to arrest for public masturbation.

Shaking hands during a business deal where money is involved could be considered a form of prostitution.

And I don’t even want to think about an adult holding a child’s hand…


Well of course it’s silly.

Almost as silly as barring a lawmaker from speaking because she used the inoffensive and medically correct term for the female sex organ, or almost as silly as passing a bill you’re too embarrassed to debate or passing into law a term you just can’t bring yourself to define.

But it’s not nearly as fucking silly as what the Republican party has allowed itself to become.


Funny thing, Republican politicians, judges, and educators weren’t always so adverse to saying the naughty words out loud.

There was a time when they were absolutely enthusiastic about it.


I do.

“The President inserted a cigar into Ms Lewinsky's vagina, then put the cigar in his mouth and said: "It tastes good”
              – Official report to Congress
                 impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton 
                 Kenneth Starr, Republican independent counsel, 1998

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Real Entitlement Mentality


It was a 1984, or maybe an ‘85, Toyota pickup truck.

He was plodding along at about 55MPH on the Glenn Highway, crossing the Palmer Hay Flats heading into Anchorage in morning traffic.

The fact that he was actually in the slow lane was noteworthy in and of itself, given that about 99% of Valley commuters simply can’t seem to wrap their pointy heads around the concept of Left Lane Fast, Right Lane Slow. Alaska doesn’t have mandatory drivers ed classes in high school and it shows. But I digress.

So there he was, ‘84 (or maybe ‘85) Toyota pickup. It might have been white once, back when people listened to Blondie on stereo cassette tapes, but the truck’s primary color now was the burnt orange of rust and the dull threadbare gray of worn duct tape smothered in at least two decades of road dust.  I could easily see the vehicle’s internal components, and daylight, through the holes. The windshield was cracked and a loose fender flare was flapping in the slipstream.  The bed was filled with the usual detritus you’d find in the back of any similar Alaskan vehicle: empty beer cans and broken fishing poles, a worn out rimless tire and a five gallon bucket crusted with last year’s dried salmon guts and an empty gas-can labeled “2-stroke” in large black marker. 

On a good day the whole rig, dried fish guts and all, was worth maybe, maybe, a thousand bucks tops.

And on the back window?

A brand new bumper-sticker:

You’re Not Entitled To My Stuff!

As I passed him I looked over fully expecting to see the usual Valley Bush Habitant, i.e. a scowling angry greybeard with a roll-your-own clenched firmly between thin bloodless lips. Instead the driver was a clean cut youngster, twenty maybe.

That’s right, a member of the so-called Entitlement Generation.

You’re not entitled to my stuff.

I had to smile at the irony as I passed him in my fifty thousand dollar GMC truck (which, I might add is paid off). I’m not entitled to your stuff? Don’t worry, Kid, your POS rustbucket is probably safe from my entitled covetousness (though I might snatch that snot encrusted bait bucket given half a chance).

You’re not entitled to my stuff.

Everywhere you turn nowadays that’s what you hear: you’re not entitled to my stuff. The government isn’t entitled to my money. The jobless aren’t entitled to my job or my unemployment benefits. The aged aren’t entitled to my social security or my Medicare, hell it’s nothing but a damned Ponzi scheme anyway.  The uninsured aren’t entitled to my healthcare, they can always use the free medical at the emergency room. The illegals aren’t entitled to my country, even if they were born here and have lived here their whole lives the same as me.  Gays aren’t entitled to my marriage, minorities aren’t entitled to my civil rights, women aren’t entitled to their own bodies, blacks aren’t entitled to live in my neighborhood. The poor aren’t entitled to anything because really, screw those those lazy bastards. 

You are not entitled to my stuff.  It’s mine.

That’s what’s wrong with the current generation, right?  They’re a bunch of spoiled rotten brats. They think they’re entitled to everything, good jobs, healthcare, early retirement, safe neighborhood, strong economy, big house with a chicken in the pot and a new truck in the garage – they think they’re entitled to the “American dream.” They think they’re entitled to their own stuff.

Wonder where they got that stupid idea?

You’re not entitled to my stuff.

That’s what we’re telling them now, you know.  At high school graduation, on the TV and the radio, from the pulpit and the politicians.  There’s even a Facebook page, You’re Not Entitled To What I’ve Earned.  Here’s a sample of what you’ll find there:

“Maybe your back is sore? Maybe you have a headache? The ones who choose not to work don't experience these things because they do nothing but sit on their lazy butts. We were not put on this earth to pay for their bad choices. I say to the entitlement class, get up off your couch and go look for a job. We are sick and tired of our tax money going to a worthless cause!!!! If you agree please hit the "like button" You’re Not Entitled To What I’ve Earned!!!!”

Every post ends with that tag line, You’re Not Entitled To What I’ve Earned!!!!, just to make sure you lazy bastards get the message. You’re not entitled to my stuff (but I am, however, entitled to a like or two).

The guy that started that Facebook page really, really hates the entitlement mentality.

And why shouldn’t he, right?

Really, where do you snot-nosed brats get off thinking you’re special anyway? Who raised you people? Who put that idea in your silly little heads? Who’s responsible for how you greedy punks turned out? Who? Boy, you never saw this kind of crap in the Greatest Generation, that’s for sure. Used to be each generation was raised to think it was shitty and worthless and less than the one that came before – because, man, nothing motivates kids like that.

But not the Entitlement Generation.

See, that’s what happens when you’re all full of self esteem – you end up thinking you’re better than Jesus.

It’s the goddamned liberals, isn’t it? They’ve been telling you little slackers that you’re special for two generations now.  You never saw conservatives filling your heads with that kind of nonsense, no Sirree, you never heard a Republican talking about “exceptionalism” or how Americans are “the favored of God,” none of that crap.  No, it was Barney the Dinosaur and the Bear in the Big Blue House, Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street and the rest of those politically correct namby-pambies. Sure. They’re the ones. They’ve been telling you that you’re all special little snowflakes. 

Rush Limbaugh had it right, didn’t he?

“You are not supposed to insult the children.  You are not supposed to damage the children.  You are not supposed to harm the children.  You are not supposed to hurt the children.  You are not supposed to attack the children.  You are not supposed to criticize the children.  Everything we do is for the children.  And you're not supposed to criticize them.  You're not supposed to hurt their feelings.  You're not supposed to harm them… “

And now? Because you weren’t criticized and hurt and damaged on a regular basis look how you turned out. Now, you’re all a bunch of spoiled, rotten, selfish, limp-wristed pisswillies. You’re ruining this country with your gimme mentality. Gimme, gimme, gimme. Goddamned Entitlement Generation, it’s all your fault for the mess we find ourselves in.

Well you know what? You’re not special. You’re not exceptional.  You’re not entitled to anything.

You want something? You’ll need to get off your fat lazy asses and work for it.

That’s right, work for it, just like we did.

Got that?

As long as we’re at it, let me tell you what else you’re not entitled to:

You’re not entitled to the world’s biggest baddest military. That’s right. There’s not one damned thing in the Constitution about you being entitled to the world’s largest or most powerful or most technologically advanced military. You don’t get a cookie for being biggest.  You’re not entitled to a nuclear arsenal ten times bigger than anything you’d ever need even if you wanted to destroy every living thing on the planet, which you’re also not entitled to do. You’re not entitled to the world’s most powerful fleet.  You not entitled to throw out perfectly serviceable cruisers and destroyers and frigates just because you want new ones every few years. You’re not entitled to the world’s most awesome fighter aircraft that happens to cost $200 million dollars a copy when the previous $20 million dollar fighter was better than anything else in the world.  You’re not entitled to invisible bombers at $2 billion dollars a pop. You’re not entitled to the world’s best tank. You’re not entitled to a standing army that’s trained and equipped to fight two wars at a time.  And while we’re on the subject, you’re not entitled to start a war any time you please just because you have that great big huge military equipped with all the latest weapons. Yes, that’s right, you’re not entitled to reach for the military option first just because diplomacy is hard or just because you only know how to solve problems with your fists.  And if you do decide to start a war, you’re not entitled to pass the bill onto the next generation – you start it, then you’re entitled to pay for it even if that means raising taxes and giving up some of the things you think you’re entitled to.  Something else, if you do go to war, you’re not entitled to pretend like you didn’t – what I mean here is you’re not entitled to slap a two dollar magnet on the back of your giant SUV and then pretend like you’ve actually contributed to the war effort.  You sent the troops off to war, you’re not entitled to act like you don’t owe them equipment and funding from the very first day boots hit the ground on foreign soil even if all the folks back home have to give up their entitlements to pay for it.  You’re not entitled to act like some of those soldiers aren’t coming home in a doggie bag and when they do you’re not entitled to turn your head away.  Here’s something else, If you’ve never served, if you got yourself a nice big shiny deferment (or five) during the last conflict, you’re not entitled to go around telling the current generation that they’re not real patriotic Americans if they don’t want to serve in this one.  If you’ve never served in actual combat yourself, if you spent the last war safe and snug in the Reserves or the National Guard because your daddy got you a cushy assignment guarding a whorehouse in Louisiana, then you are not fucking entitled to denigrate those who have put their lives on the line – even if they are liberals.

You’re not entitled to not pay taxes just because you’re rich. You’re not entitled to go around whining about how you shouldn’t have to pay at the same rate as everybody else because you allegedly create jobs – except of course you’ve had those tax exemptions since the Bush Administration and you and your pals in the venture capital world have yet to create a single goddamned job.  In fact, you’re not entitled to talk about how the American jobless rate is over eight percent when you’re the asshole who outsourced all the jobs to India and Mexico in the first place – just because it made for a momentary increase in the bottom line during your whole one year tenure as a serial CEO.   You’re not entitled to live without the consequences just because you work on Wall Street. You’re not entitled to a golden parachute and twenty million dollar bonuses when everybody else in the company you turned into a smoking crater is out on the street and the stockholders are left with nothing but a pile of worthless paper.  You’re not entitled to stick the rest of us with all the risk and none of the profit when you use our retirement funds to make bad investments.  You’re not entitled to bankrupt businesses and liquidate jobs and squander bailout funds on parties and bonuses and then lecture the rest of us on the virtue of living within our means.  You’re not entitled to sell bad investments and fraudulent mortgages and generally behave like a fat greedy pig at a trough and then have the nerve act like you’re some kind of a stodgy carefully conservative business genius. You’re not entitled to live outside the law just because you’ve got millions in the bank. You’re not entitled to make anonymous political contributions and buy elections and claim that you’re just engaging in “freedom of speech.” You’re not entitled to make billions, billions, in quarterly profits and then claim that you need more billions in government subsides to remain profitable – and, of course, create those jobs you keep promising us.  And while we’re on that subject, you’re not entitled to demand government subsides and then donate money to political parties because you’re “opposed to socialism.”

You’re not entitled to hijack God. Yes, that’s right, You. Are. Not. Entitled. To. God. You are not entitled to tell everybody else what they should and should not believe. You’re not entitled to declare America “a Christian Nation” – or a Muslim nation, or a Jewish nation, or even an atheist nation.   You’re not entitled to rewrite the Constitution to include Jesus, Mohammad, or the Great Sauce Covered Noodley-Appendaged Pasta Monster – and the same goes for the schoolbooks. You’re not entitled to be offended when the rest of us don’t want your deity’s nose jammed up our colons – or shoved into our uteruses (you ever notice how your god seems to have an inordinate fixation with the lower orifices? But I digress yet again, as I am entitled to do). You and your anally-fixated god are not entitled to make the rest of us live in the Bronze Age – you want to reside back there that’s fine, but you’re not entitled to force your god’s version of morality, marriage, law, or salvation onto the 21st Century.  You are not entitled to other consenting adults’ sex lives and I don’t care what your magic book says, it doesn’t matter if you don’t approve or you think it’s a lifestyle choice or you just find it icky – it’s none of your god’s goddamned business and you’re not entitled to act like it is.  You’re not entitled to make the rest of us ignore math, history, physics, biology, astronomy, and every other branch of human knowledge and endeavor just because your pet priest, minister, pastor, shaman, or other such juju magic man feels his meal-ticket is threatened by science. Guess what? Those religious “leaders” aren’t entitled to live off the fear and hate and wide-eye gullibility of the masses either, if they want to eat they’re entitled to get a real job – just exact like you keep telling the poor and the current generation to do. They’re not entitled to extort compliance from the rest of us with their religion’s ridiculously overblown threats of eternal torment, if you need the childish prospect of lakes of fire and chains of ice in order to keep from murdering and stealing and coveting asses, well, that’s your behavioral disorder you’re not entitled to make it mine. Oh, and you’re not entitled to refer to your unsupported and non-falsifiable fairytale as The Truth or demand that I respect it either, just saying.

You’re not entitled to act like you’re the only person on the planet. You’re not entitled to go around telling everybody else that you’re exceptional – you’re not entitled to pretend like your shit doesn’t stink, you’re not entitled to do and say and take anything you like, you’re not entitled to crap all over the rest of the world, you’re not entitled to tell everybody else to kiss your ass and that God loves you best of all. You’re not entitled to a vastly higher standard of living than everybody else.  You’re not entitled to demand that everybody else speak English – in fact you’re not entitled to expect everybody else to know three or four languages while you can barely manage one. You’re not entitled to consume 70% of the world’s total resources. You’re not entitled to throw away food while the rest of the world goes hungry. You’re not entitled to drive a Hummer that gets five miles per gallon while bitching about how come the President don’t make gas cheaper right now – and you’re not entitled to be completely ignorant of how the price of global commodities, like gasoline for example, are determined by the law of international supply and demand and not by wishful thinking. You’re the guy who wants unregulated and unfettered capitalism, you’re not entitled to whine about the consequences of the free market.  You’re also not entitled to be all smug about driving that electric hybrid and pretending to save the planet while completely ignoring what it takes to make those high-tech exotic element batteries – or dispose of them for that matter – or what it really takes to charge them up every day.

You’re not entitled to live out the day. You’re not entitled to clean air or drinkable water.  You’re not entitled to food that won’t kill you. You’re not entitled to beer that won’t make you blind from wood grain alcohol or dead from formaldehyde or botulism. You’re not entitled to decent sanitation.  You’re not entitled to safe and dependable medicine and you’re not entitled to doctors who went to an actual medical school. You’re not entitled to live without vermin or disease or the black death. You’re not entitled to live through your morning commute, you’re not entitled to seatbelts or decent roads free of roving highwaymen or even standardized rules that the other idiots on the road are supposed to know before they can get behind the wheel. You’re not entitled to renter’s protections or lemon laws. You’re not entitled to safe bridges or working stoplights. You’re not entitled to expect your children to survive until adulthood – in fact, if we left it up to your merciful god three quarters of your kids would be dead from typhus and polio and measles and saber-toothed cats before they reached adulthood. You’re not entitled to a safe working environment or a workplace free from harassment and intimidation and extortion. You’re not entitled to throw trash out your window and expect somebody else to clean it up.  You’re not entitled to reliable technology or standardized electricity or the internet. You’re not entitled to radio frequency bands that are free of pirate stations, and you’re not entitled to TV and Radio stations that broadcast using a modulation you can decipher without proprietary equipment. You’re not entitled to elevators that don’t fall twenty stories and explode. You’re not entitled to lead-free paint. And you’re not entitled to pretend like the magic free market will naturally regulate all of these things despite the fact that it never has, ever. You’re not entitled to air conditioning. You’re not entitled to national parks. You’re not entitled to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables the year around while bitching about those damned illegal aliens – and while we’re on this subject, you’re also not entitled to hire undocumented nannies and gardeners and day laborers off the corner every single day and then pretend like you’re not part of the problem. You’re not entitled to go to bed with a full belly every single night. You’re not entitled to a living wage. You’re not entitled to a retirement. You’re not entitled to a space program. You’re not entitled to the million and one other things you take for granted every single goddamned day just because you benefit from an accident of birth.

You know what else you’re not entitled to?

You’re not entitled to pretend like it’s not your problem.  You’re not entitled to act like poverty isn’t your problem. You’re not entitled to pretend that inequality doesn’t exist or that everybody gets a fair shake just because you don’t want to face reality.  You’re not entitled to go around demanding that everybody else live up to your version of the Old Testament while you avert your eyes and completely and totally ignore your prophet’s very, very, very specific command to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and heal the sick. You’re not entitled to act like racism is dead in America just because you don’t actually call ethnic minorities racial slurs to their faces.  You’re not entitled to act like forty million Americans don’t have access to healthcare.  You’re not entitled to be ignorant of the crime and the drugs and disenfranchisement.  You’re not entitled to your willful ignorance and deliberate stupidity. You’re not entitled to act like a selfish asshole, but you do anyway.

I’m not entitled to your stuff?

Don’t worry about it and don’t flatter yourself.

You’re not entitled to absolve yourself of blame for the entitlement mentality you so despise.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Only Thing To Fear…

Addendum at the end of the post


As noted in the previous post, I’ve been ill for the last two weeks.

Nothing life threatening, just a horrible spring cold and a touch of the flu.

But for a while there, I was wondering if maybe I’d contracted the Ebola and was in the throes of fever induced hallucinations. 

Seriously, when you flip on the news and see Jeb Bush, Jeb Bush of all goddamned people, waxing philosophical and complaining about how the Republican party has moved so far into rightwing extremism that neither Ronald Reagan or his father, George Holy War Bush, would be welcome in today’s GOP, well, you really have to wonder if maybe your illness is far worse than the the doctor led you to believe. 

"Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad, they would have a hard time if you define the Republican party, and I don’t, as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground."

Bush then goes on to lament how back in his dad’s time, and especially during Reagan’s administration, “they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support,”  but nowadays, the GOP would disown both former presidents for making the compromises they made – i.e. for putting practicality and the needs of the nation over the ideology of their own political party. 

In a previous post, The Deification of Ronald Reagan, I said much the same here on Stonekettle Station.  It’s long been my observation that conservatives are in love with the idea of Ronald Reagan, not the actual president himself (sort like how many of the same folks appear to regard Jesus, but I digress).  As Jeb said, it’s unlikely that the real Reagan could get the GOP nomination today.

Republicans haven’t been the party of Lincoln for a long, long time, and they haven’t been the party of Teddy Roosevelt since the Taft administration – and the really scary part is that they’re no longer the party of Reagan either.

Bush cited the budget deal his father worked out with a democrat dominated congress and broad bipartisan support which “created the spending restraint of the ‘90’s” (note, I think Jeb might be stretching the definition of the word “restraint” here, but I won’t argue the point).  Of course, that bipartisan deal, which raised taxes and made a mockery of George H. W. Bush’s now infamous campaign promise “read my lips, no new taxes” sent conservatives into paroxysms of apoplectic rage and ensured, as Jeb noted, that dear old dad would be a one term president.  However Jeb Bush also noted that those tax increases were “helpful in creating a climate of more sustained economic growth.”

Well fancy that.

If you read the article, you’ll note that Jeb pointedly didn’t mention how his brother cut taxes or how that’s currently working out for America’s “sustained economic growth.”

Jeb Bush then called the current extremely partisan political climate “disturbing.”

That’s when I started to wonder if maybe I should have paid closer attention to those dire warnings on the bottle of cold medicine.

I mean, come on, Jeb Bush and I agree that the GOP has been taken over by a cadre of dogmatic Jesus-flinging jingoistic ass-monkeys?

Holy Hell! The end must be near!

Of course, I shouldn’t have worried. 

After fortifying myself with another mug of foul tasting TheraFlu, I read the rest of the interview and the universe snapped back into its proper focus.

See, according to Bush, well, it’s all Obama’s fault.

Ah, yes, of course. He’s campaigning for vice president, I should have seen that right up front. Damned cold.

Bush went on to say that Obama’s first year in office could have been a time of great accomplishment. Could have. If only he’d been more, oh, you know, conservative. More willing to compromise. More willing to give in to republicans (of course, that’s what leftwing extremists hate about Obama the most, right? His unwillingness to give in to conservatives… oh wait, that’s not right. Never mind. These are not the public options you’re looking for, move along, move along). Bush didn’t offer an opinion on why the Congressional Tea Party Caucus and other conservative hardliners who vocally proclaimed their steadfast refusal to compromise in any fashion whatsoever are not at least partially to blame, but then he really didn’t have to, did he?

It’s the Bush Doctrine – a trait which seems to run in the family. You’re either with us or you’re against us. Period. Jeb was talking about his father, but he was talking for his neocon brother. Compromise and bipartisanship means do it our way and we won’t have any problems. Disagree and you’re a traitor to America, prepare for immediate Nazi tossing.

Now, obviously, petulant refusal to compromise and placing dogmatic adherence to political and religious ideology over national interest is hardly exclusive to conservatives, but it continues to astound me just how doggedly the right reviles Barack Obama – even if they have to make up reasons to hate him.  It’s one thing to disagree with somebody because you think you can do the job better, but so many conservatives hate the president with an utterly irrational passion that goes beyond any political ideology and verges on actual madness. Birthers are one obvious example, there is no rational basis for their bizarre fixation, their ridiculous accusations have been debunked time and time again – and yet they publically and vocally persist in their baseless delusion. It’s madness.

But, you know, it’s not just the Birthers and the other obvious cases of mass hysteria, it’s the little things as well.

A conservative relative and I were discussing Obama a while back.  The relative declared “Obama is just like Hitler!”  Das F├╝hrer? How so?  “He just is,” was the answer.  Yeah, but how is he like Hitler? “He’s Hitler,” the relative insisted, getting angry. What? Did Obama invade Poland when I wasn’t looking? Did he attempt to conquer Europe? Subjugate France? Did he try to create a master race based on some goofy medieval Germanic fairytale and a half-assed misunderstanding of evolutionary biology? Is it the little mustache? Gosh darn it, did he kill six million Jews? Is that it? Really what? “Hitler! Hitler! I just feel that’s how he is. Hitler.” And that’s where we left it because there is no polite response to irrational behavior. How in the hell can you reason with that? They might as well have been proclaiming their belief in alien abductions or the healing power of “magnetic” copper bracelets.

You just can’t reason with unreasonable people.

Case in point, Bloomberg Business Week posted a piece complaining about a joke Obama made at George Clooney’s expense, a joke that apparently got a lot of laughs at a recent fundraiser but wasn’t factually true (Yeah, new rule, political jokes during a celebrity roast now need to be factually correct – somebody call Don Rickles). Because really, that’s the level of petty peevishness you want in your financial reporting.

An aside: is it just me or is there no end of hysterical irony in a bunch of creationists insisting on provable facts? No? Just me, huh? Ok.

The president ribbed a famous celebrity who also happens to be one of his personal friends and a supporter, cracking wise in an obvious joke, and Bloomberg declares this an egregious example of the White House’s lack of “fact checking.”  Ironically, the Business Week article ends with the author speculating on how the White House Press Office was “probably fairly embarrassed” by the whole thing (emphasis mine).  Probably. No actual facts to back that up in an article where you’re complaining about fact checking, but yeah let’s just go ahead and guess at what the White House is feeling. Probably. Sure. Of course, it’s not like Business Week’s readers are really interested in actual facts, people engaged in irrational behavior rarely are. Under the piece in question (linked to above), commenter Michael is a pretty good example of the kind of people Bloomberg was aiming this article at:

“Some of you people do not have a clue, This country was founded on religious
freedoms and Obama is doing his best to destroy what rights we have left of
that freedom. It canceled nationa prayer day, is working with Hillary
Clinton to take away our right to bare arms and turn gun control over to the
Wake up it is time to stop blame Bush for everything. Obama is a rookie that
is a proven lier and does not meet the qualification to be President of the
United States of American.” [sic]

Mike’s comment went up three days ago and so far one hundred and eighty-five Bloomberg readers have given him a “like” on Facebook.  At least they know why they hate Obama – he’s destroying religious freedom by cancelling National Prayer Day! Why that Nazi bastard! He’s just like Hitler!

Except, of course, “National Prayer Day” wasn’t cancelled.

The actual fact is that President Obama has issued a proclamation observing the “National Prayer Day” for each of the three years of his presidency – just like every other president before him all the way back to Truman in 1952.  What? What’s that you say?  Oh, yes, that’s right, it’s the National Day of Prayer, not “Nationa[l] Prayer Day” but hey, at this point under an article about fact checking the president’s Clooney joke we’ve already pegged the irony meter anyway so what the hell, eh? (Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?  Forget it, he’s rolling.  – Two points if you get the ref without looking it up on IMDB and help yourself to some punch and cookies).

In point of fact, the Obama administration went to court in 2010 to defend the National Day of Prayer against a constitutional challenge. I guess the outraged evangelical chain mail going around forgot to mention that. Apparently the bearing of false witness isn’t a sin for Christians after all so long as they’re doing it from the pulpit, somebody want to double check with Jesus on that just to be sure?

Look, even if he wanted to, the president can’t cancel the “National Prayer Day”, just as the president can’t make you observe the obnoxious event either. The president can’t cancel the National Day of Prayer anymore than he can cancel Christmas or the 4th of July or Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Seriously, if this silly prayer day thing is so damned important, you’d think people would actually look it up and learn something about it and then pass that information around in order to allay other believers’ fears and false information – since it’s supposed to be truth that matters to these people, I mean. Isn’t prayer supposed to be about comfort and guidance? And the National Day of Prayer is supposed to be about encouraging Americans to turn to the divine for said comfort and inspiration? Yes? But what have certain Christians turned it into? Another opportunity to spread hate and fear and false information – I’m pretty sure Jesus would kick your ass for that. And it’s not like the actual information is hard to find in this modern age.  But the simple truth of the matter is that these people want to believe this kind of crap.  They need a reason to justify their fear and hatred of Obama, even if they have to make that reason up whole cloth.   This is a natural result of creationist thinking: 1) consult dogma for the desired result, 2) rationalize up some “facts” to support it (Step 3, get Texas to put it in the school books – and now I’m just being a smart Alec. Sorry).

But let’s not stop there, as long as we’re just making shit up, let’s toss in a fib about Barry and Hillary scheming to take away our right to wear sleeveless shirts too!

Huh? Oh. See, Mike said “right to bare arms” and I thought … Oh, heh heh, sorry.  So they’re coming to get our guns? Oh noes! Not the guns!

Obama’s coming for our guns and our religion!

Oh that Barack, what a stinker.

Remember back when Midwestern conservatives got all soggy and hard to light when candidate Obama said something about them clinging to their guns and their religion?  Boy, was he ever wrong, wasn’t he?  So, is it just a coincidence that guns and religion are always the first, and often the only, rights conservatives worry about? When folks like Michael complain about Obama taking away our rights, they never mention the right to petition the government for redress of wrongs, or freedom of the press, or protection from the quartering of troops in our homes, or freedom from self incrimination or the right to a speedy trial. Nope, it’s God and guns first and second, and maybe a passing reference to state’s rights a distant third (because states are better at protecting God and guns, see?).  Why is that, do you suppose? Think about it for a minute, which right to do you think will yield actual results? The right to gather in your church and ask Jehovah to turn the onrushing tide (which by definition He sent in some sort of cosmic act of extortion apparently) or the right to petition the government for redress when the Corps of Engineers fails to secure the seawall?  Which right do you think is more likely to bring down, has brought down, a corrupt Administration? Freedom to own a firearm or freedom of the press? Do you really think that you and your raggedy-assed band of beer-bellied militia brothers, all ten of you waving your pistols and bibles, are going to stand against the US military and law enforcement if the government really wants you?  Really? What’s that? Oh, your neighbors will rally to your cause? Like Braveheart maybe, For Frrrrrreeeeeedom! Yeah, those same neighbors you can’t stand and wish would leave the country, right? But yeah, guns and god, those are the two most important rights.  Especially guns.

Of course, there isn’t a single bill presently before either the House or the Senate that would restrict Second Amendment rights. Not one. Nor has President Obama advocated for one. And in fact, the last gun related bill taken up was HR 822, which passed the House in November of 2011 with a comfortable margin of 272 yeas to 154 nays (note that to get 272 to 154, a significant number of liberals had to vote for the bill, but I digress). What is HR 822?  Well, if it becomes law it would allow you to carry a concealed handgun anywhere in the United States providing that you have a valid concealed carry permit in your state of residence – kind of like how your state driver’s license lets you operate a motor vehicle in any other state you happen to be passing through. HR 822 would significantly expand gun carry rights across the board.  One of the bill’s sponsors was North Carolina’s Heath Schuler, a democrat.  Those opposed to the bill wrote to the White House urging Obama to issue a veto threat, he refused and took no official position.  The measure is working it’s way through the Senate presently.  But yeah, Obama, he’s coming for our guns.  Him and Hillary Clinton – because, as any good God-fearin’ American knows, the Secretary of State can do things like that. All liberals can, it’s their magic super power. See, they want our guns and our god so they can turn “control” over to the United Nations! Yeah. Just like Hitler did.

Of course, what do you expect from a guy who doesn’t even meet the qualifications for president, right?


Again, you can not reason with unreasonable people. 

It’s madness.

It’s madness that every single thing Michael fears, every single line he wrote, is provably false and as utterly irrational as any other phobia. Sure he has a right to believe the nonsense he posted in his comment – despite the very fact that being able to freely speak such paranoid bilge without consequence is proof that he’s wrong.  Sure he has a right to believe it, he also has the right to be an idiot.  The worst kind of idiot, a willful idiot.  Because his cognitive defect isn’t something he was born with – he deliberately chose to be an idiot. That’s not just stupid, that’s pitiful. 

It’s madness that people like Michael have to literally make up reasons to hate and fear the president – and by extension half the country.  Oh sure, we’ve been making up irrational reasons to hate and fear each other since before we climbed down from the trees. None of Michael’s fears can stand the light of reason but that doesn’t keep him from being afraid anyway, from wanting to be afraid. Sure he has a right to act like a gibbering panic monkey caught between fright and flight, baring his teeth in a rictus of fear and hate simian-like at whomever he wants to.  But he’s the worst kind of hater, he hates from reflex.  All of the justifications for his fear are false, provably so. He doesn’t even know why he hates – he just does.

It’s madness that Michael is hardly alone in his irrational beliefs. He’s got plenty of company in his fear and hatred of Obama, from the other commenters on the same article to conservative talk radio pundits to prominent businessmen with bad hair right on up to members of congress. Sure he has the right to say what he likes no matter how false and irrational.  And sure others have the right to agree with him and repeat his words – just as he blindly repeats somebody else’s.  But it’s the worst kind of togetherness, it’s the togetherness of mass hysteria, it’s the group think of the mindless stampeding herd, it’s the mob mentality of irrational fear, and it’s the subjugation of reason to the hypocritical dogma of the clergy and the shaman and the huckster. It is fear of the dark (literally in this case), fear of the unknown, fear of the other – it is the small whimpering terror of a small child afraid of what might be hiding under the bed.

And it’s madness that politicians and pundits deliberately prey on the fear and hatred of the foolishly weak minded like Michael. These people proclaim the greatness of America, the strength of its institutions, the enduring exceptionalism of its very existence, and above all its favored position in the mighty baleful eye of their fearsome God, and yet – and yet – they have so little faith in their nation, their institutions, their system of governance, their ideals, and all the things their ancestors wrought, they have so little faith in their assertion that their God loves America best of all, that they fear one single man can destroy it all with a simple wave of his dark-skinned hand.

It is the madness of fear for fear’s sake and nothing more.

Democracy depends for its very existence on an educated and informed citizenry.

A republic depends on educated and informed and rational representatives of the people.

In the United States, no president can take away your freedoms or your rights. No president can destroy the nation.

But willful idiots and fearful fools like Michael most certainly can.


You know some days you just have to wonder at serendipity. 

Two of my favorite journalists are NPR’s Terry Gross and The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer.  

Today on Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewed Jane Mayer about her latest piece in The New Yorker.  It’s a fascinating and appalling article about Bryan Fischer, the extremist evangelical (is that redundant?)  talk-radio host who has become the driving force behind the GOP’s hard shift to the far right.  There are few republican candidates, Romney chief among them, who don’t out and out fear Fischer – because he directly influences a very large segment of Midwestern/Southern Evangelicals, without whom no conservative candidate stands a prayer in hell of winning the White House.  Fischer is considered by many to wield far more actual power and influence than even Rush Limbaugh.

Fischer is vehemently anti-gay, you might say he’s obsessed with gays and has even declared war on homosexuals. Fischer is specifically responsible for the campaign against Richard Grenell, an openly gay man who served for nine days as Romney’s security advisor and spokesman before being forced to resign amidst an appalling display of fear and open hatred (yes, one has to wonder what the hell a openly gay man was doing in the middle of a republican campaign in the first place – typically Republicans like to keep their gays confined to airport bathrooms and secret junkets to Cancun, but I digress). 

Fischer wants to literally implement biblical law in America, this isn’t hyperbole it is actual fact and an understated one at that.

Fischer believes that the constitution applies only to Christians, again this is not hyperbole or an exaggeration but an exact quote of his publically expressed belief. 

He’s a racist of the most vicious stripe.

He and his organization, The American Family Association, are labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

And he is the source of much of the misinformation many, many conservatives now parrot as “fact” including most of the things I pointed out in my post above.

Least you think that my analysis of the Evangelical right, and increasingly the entire GOP itself, is off base,  take a look at one of the most influential voices within the modern American Republican party.  Then get back to me.  // Jim

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Note About The Hiatus

More astute readers will note that Stonekettle Station hasn’t been updated in going on two weeks.

Sorry about that.

No, I haven’t given it up. I was overtaken by events. Writing takes time and concentration and (for me anyway) isolation.  Those things have have been in short supply lately.

Also, I’m sick and have been for about a week now.  I’m getting over it, but yesterday instead of writing I ended up sleeping for fifteen hours. I’m not a good sick person and I can’t write when I’m sick – mostly I just sit on the couch and moan and ask people to bring me stuff.

Posting will resume shortly.