Monday, December 29, 2014

Gone Fishing


I’m on vacation for the next couple of weeks.

I’d like to thank you all for following along, 2014 was a hell of a year. I’d especially like to thank those of you who donated to Stonekettle Station, you allowed me to call myself a full time professional writer at last – something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid. Thank you all, sincerely, for making Stonekettle Station a going concern.

That said, I really needed a break. A Pacific island and a Mai Tai (or three) makes the Alaskan winter a bit more tolerable – and more, we promised my son a reward for high school graduation and for successfully completing his first semester of college. So, here we are. I’m not just goofing off however, I’m doing some research for upcoming pieces. And even here on the slow moving North Shore of Oahu, I’m still plugged into the internet and keeping my social media feeds updated. There may be a blog post or two from this tropical paradise, but unless I happen to run into the president, you probably shouldn’t count on it.

Stonekettle Station will resume mid January. 

And again, thank you all for your continued interest and support, I appreciate it more than I can say.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Negative Reinforcement

In training a dog it is never necessary to hit the animal… but sometimes you’ve got to smack that hardheaded fucker right across the nose to get its attention.
  - USN Chief Petty Officer, to me, right before he smacked me across the nose.
     He was right, it got my attention.

I may have been wrong about torture.

Upon further examination, it appears torture might be effective after all.

Oh, not effective at gathering reliable and actionable intelligence.  No, that’s a wash. Sure, you might be able to pull a few nuggets out of some terrorist, under the right conditions, but it’s nothing you can depend on.

Nor is torture an effective deterrent to our enemies. In point of fact it appears to spontaneously generate more enemies.  And it appears to make the ones we have already even more determined in their hatred of America.

But in at least one case, in one single aspect, torture appears to have been supremely effective:

“Frankly, this idea that somehow this is gonna make our enemies more likely to attack us, I don't think so. They're beheading Americans right now. So that part of it, I dismiss. But what we need to do is come clean. We move forward. And we vow never to do it again.”

That was Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona and just about the only conservative politician in America against torture.

McCain spent six years in a Vietnamese prison and he was brutally tortured almost daily. It left him … damaged, in a number of ways.

And that experience, it would appear, seems to have effectively overridden his deeply embedded political programming and permanently rewired John McCain into a decent and compassionate human being. Again, in this one aspect only. 

On the face of things, it seems that six years of torture at the hands of his Vietnamese captors turned John McCain into a liberal America-hatin’ pussy. 


Oh, that. Right. Liberal America-hating pussy, that’s what conservatives called me when I spoke out in opposition to torture as national policy. Logically I assume the same applies to John McCain.  The difference is I that came by my sense of morality naturally, John McCain, like most republicans and their sexual orientation, apparently had to choose his.

Funny, isn’t it? How being tortured made a die-hard right-wing conservative Republican like John McCain go against his own party and his own ideology and see torture for what it actually is? Brutal. Terrible. Immoral. Unethical. Illegal. Evil.  Dishonorable. Disgraceful. And a violation of everything the United States supposedly stands for. Ironic almost, isn’t it?

Goddamned funny that it took actually being tortured for a Republican to be against torture

Some of us, well, you know, we were actually able to get there without being locked in a sweatbox, without being water boarded, without being hung by our broken arms and beaten with bamboo canes, without having our nuts hooked up to a car battery.

But John McCain? The North Vietnamese Army, it took them six years to literally beat compassion and morality into that hard headed fucker.

And if they had not, if LT John McCain, USN, had not ended up in the brutal hands of the NVA, well, then he would be exactly – exactly – like the rest of his party.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum.


Which, you know, makes you wonder if maybe we should toss him back.


No, really, what kind of a man would John McCain be today if we’d maybe left in him that Vietnamese hellhole a bit longer?

Maybe a couple more years in a bamboo cage and John McCain would develop a complete conscience and sincere regard for other human beings. 

Maybe, just maybe, if McCain had been tortured a bit longer, had a couple more gallons of water poured up his nose, had a few more bones broken, had a few of his meals delivered via his puckered asshole, well then maybe he’d be less eager to go around bombing other countries all the time.  Heck, maybe he’d use some of his wealth to help feed the hungry and clothe the poor. Maybe he’d use his power and influence as a Senator to, you know, pass healthcare and education and immigration reforms that actually helped real human beings instead of lining the pockets of his rich friends.  Maybe, just maybe, he’d support life, liberty, and equality for all instead of just the people with his skin color and religion and sexual orientation and income bracket.

You know, it’s goddamned appalling that you actually have to torture a Republican to get them to act like a decent moral human being, to live up the morals and the ideals and the exceptionalism that we, the United States of America, that shining city on the hill, are supposed to represent.

John McCain the POW gets no credit from me for coming out against torture.


You shouldn’t have to torture somebody to get them to see the immorality of torture.

You should already know that torture is wrong, un-American, illegal, immoral, and beneath the dignity of a free and just nation.

Just as you shouldn’t have to see hungry people to understand why allowing your fellows to go to bed with empty bellies each night in a nation literally overflowing with food from sea to shining sea is immoral.

Just as you shouldn’t have to see poor people sleeping on the streets and living in cold inequality surrounded by a nation wealthy beyond dreams is likewise wrong.

Just as you shouldn’t have to see millions without healthcare or access to the basic medical services that a majority of the civilized world takes for granted to know that as a people, as a nation, we have failed.

Just as you shouldn’t have to see people who love each other denied the right to marry, to work, to housing, to services, to the same respect and liberty as every single other American, just because they happen to be gay.

Just as you shouldn’t have to see yet another unarmed black youth shot dead in the street or another black man choked to death without consequence, without justice, before you realize that all lives matter – not just that of a fetus in a white liberal’s belly.

Just as you shouldn’t have to see millions in poverty and starvation and disease and slavery and oppression to understand why they want to come here, to America, despite the hatred and intolerance and bigotry of those conservatives shouting and waving signs outside the bus windows.

Just as you shouldn’t have to wait until the warm seas are lapping over our shores and the crops are withering in the fields and the lakes are rotting with dead fish and the air is choked with pollution and the oil is gone along with our hope for the future in order to stop pandering to selfish greed and fearful religion.

Just as you shouldn’t have to be threatened with eternal damnation and endless torture by your small and terrible deity in order not to go around raping and murdering and stealing and generally acting like an asshole.

Just as you shouldn’t have to look at the horror and misery and devastation inflicted upon billions by war after war after war to know that there must be a better way.

Just as you shouldn’t have to look upon the idiotic gridlock and infantile tantrums and incivility of Washington partisan politics to know that you are the goddamned problem.

You shouldn’t need to be tortured in order to understand that torture is wrong.

You shouldn’t have to be tortured in order to develop compassion for your fellow human beings.

You shouldn’t have to be tortured into doing the right thing for the right reasons.

You shouldn’t have to be tortured in order to understand basic morality.

You shouldn’t have to be tortured to become a decent person.

You shouldn’t have to be tortured in order to stand up and speak out.

And you damned well shouldn’t need to be tortured to understand what the United States is really all about.

And if you do?

Well then there’s nothing I can say to you, because you will never understand.

Today we are engaged in a deadly global struggle for those who would intimidate, torture, and murder people for exercising the most basic freedoms. If we are to win this struggle and spread those freedoms, we must keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction.
- Barack Obama, President of the United States of America

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Road to Hell

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


It’s even worse than we thought.

It is, isn’t it?

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

The torture, I mean.

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

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

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

We wanted blood.

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

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

We wanted them to grovel before our towering righteous wrath.

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

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

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

More than anything, we wanted them to be afraid.

Just like they had made us afraid.

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

They deserve no mercy.

They are entitled to no rights.

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

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


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


You might want to give that some thought.

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

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

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


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

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

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

Some Americans even think they are heroes.

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

Didn’t we?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much, much worse.

What if the terrorists had a nuke? What then?

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

What if?

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

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

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

You’re right, I would.

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

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

I would.

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

Good intentions do not justify evil.

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

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

So why don’t we allow that?

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

Same thing.

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

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

And that is precisely what should happen.

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

The morality of nations is something else entirely.

Morality is a choice for people, not governments.

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

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

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

So, they built in safeguards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s the pitfall.

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


Theft is an effective means of making a living.

Murder is an effective means of winning an argument.

Abortion is an effective means of ending a pregnancy. 

Terrorism is an effective means of conveying a political point.

Follow me? 

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

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

But they failed to act on it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t matter if your cause is just.

It doesn’t matter how terrible your enemy.

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

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

And you live in a country that tortures people.

It’s really just that simple.

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Second Coming of Walter Winchell

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


Well, well, there’s a big surprise.

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

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

Ain’t that just typical?

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

That’s exactly what I expect.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every single piece of evidence.

Every single piece.

Every one.

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

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

But Glenn Beck didn't see it that way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beck gave Obama three days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately for Glenn Beck, somebody took his challenge.

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

Beck was wrong.

Completely wrong.

Wrong in every way it is possible to be wrong.

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

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

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

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

He never apologized.

He never admitted that he was wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The judge didn’t buy it.

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

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

I wish him the best of luck.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bring It On


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

John Boehner says Barack Obama is damaging the presidency itself.

John Boehner.

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

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

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

And this guy says Obama is damaging the presidency?

Oh, the irony.

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

And as expected, this morning Republicans are going apeshit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they won’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pass a bill.

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day 2014

I’m not a particularly reflective kind of person.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

But I wouldn’t count on it.

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

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

This is their day.

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


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


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

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

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

They will only do it because they respect you.

Respect is why Americans remember you today – or not.

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

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

You are the first bulwark against the night. 

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

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

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

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

Follow those who lead and lead those who will follow.

Leave no one behind.

And remember the fallen. Always.

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

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Powder Burns

Cheer up, Liberals.

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

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

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

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

In a landslide.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My only concern…


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

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

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

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

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

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

This amuses me.

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

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

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

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

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

You voted for war.

You voted to let poor people go hungry.

You voted to take away your own healthcare.

You voted to give the NRA free rein.

You voted to give the Koch Brothers a tax break.

You voted to let the seas rise and planet warm.

You voted to replace science in the classroom with creationism.

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

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

You voted to send more of your own jobs overseas.

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

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

As I said, this amuses me.

It amuses me for a number of reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These next two years are going to be extremely painful.

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ted Nugent Is Just Fine and So Are You



I cry tears of blood.

Tears of blood, no really.

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

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



Pimps and whores, oh my!

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

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



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


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

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

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


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

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


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


Yes, you lost. You lost big.

Conservatives won. They won big.

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

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

You lost. Hard.

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

And you had it coming fair and square.

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

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

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

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

They won.

With that message.

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

It’s really that simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But not this time.

For once, Alaska was a critical state.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Begich was playing defense.

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

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

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

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

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

Oh yes, they should have.

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

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

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

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

Democrats like Begich, they lost and they deserved it.

They lost because they were stupid.

They lost because they were afraid.

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

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

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

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

And Democrats let them.

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

You play defense, you lose.

Democrats lost last night because they deserved it.

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

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

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

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

But it’s not the end of the world.

It’s not the end of America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Balance of Power

Republicans are poised to take the Senate tomorrow.

And Democrats are terrified.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Absolutely nothing.

Literally nothing. 

That’s what will happen.

For the next two years.



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


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

They have no choice. 

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

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

Republicans will pass a repeal in the House.

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

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

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

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

That’s right, veto.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he’ll veto it.

And why wouldn’t he?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the president will veto their repeal.

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

And there things will stop.

And nothing will happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s just not going to happen.

So they’ll do nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

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

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

And so what if they take the Senate?

Fix the debt? They won’t do that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They have no fresh ideas.

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

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


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


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

Sure it’s hard.

Sure it’s an uphill battle.

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

So what?

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