Wednesday, July 30, 2014

John Boehner's Monster

I have to tell you, Senator Obama is a decent person and a person you don’t have to be scared of as president of the United States.

Quick, who said that?

Senator Obama is a decent person.

You don’t have to be scared of him as president of the United States.


I’ll give you a hint: It was at a campaign stop in Minnesota during the 2008 presidential campaign, and the guy who said that got loudly jeered.

Senator Obama is a decent person, you don’t need to be afraid of him.

The crowd booed and yelled out “Oh come on!” and “terrorist!” and “Liar!”

They were terrified of Barack Obama and they weren’t going to be mollified.

Figured it out, have you? Of course, it was Senator Obama’s chief rival for the White House, Republican Senator from Arizona John McCain. 

I have to tell you, Senator Obama is a decent person and a person you don’t have to be scared of as president of the United States.


2008 was an ugly, ugly election.

And that, right there, was one of its ugliest moments.

The country was crashing into a recession that showed every sign of becoming another Great Depression.  America was at war, two wars in fact – ugly, brutal, horrible wars. America needed a leader, somebody they could believe in, somebody to give them hope and inspiration. And John McCain, whatever his virtues, has all the warmth and charisma of a spiny sea cucumber.  McCain sure wasn’t a Reagan, he wasn’t going to win the vote with his movie star charm and confident smile. Hell McCain wasn’t even a George W. Bush (speaking of cold flopping fish).

They needed another Reagan, they got Johnny Walnuts.

When John McCain speaks he sounds exactly like what he is, a garrulous grumpy old man whose hemorrhoid medication isn’t up to the task of keeping his asshole in check. 

Worse, unlike 2000 and 2004 when the Democrats fielded bland wooden candidates, in 2008 Barack Obama was young, dynamic, warm, charming, well spoken, handsome, fresh, new, inspiring, and basically everything McCain wasn’t. 

The GOP wasn’t even a little bit happy with their candidate, but, barring a stroke brought on by an extended bout of cloud shouting, at that point they were stuck with him.

They were stuck with McCain, and he for damned sure wasn’t going to get elected on his charm and likability.

McCain sure wasn’t going to get elected on his record. In fact, the less said about that, the better.

And, let’s be honest, McCain wasn’t going to win the White House on his education and intellect - not that Americans have ever elected their leaders based on, you know, education and intellect.

The Republican Party didn’t like McCain. Conservatives didn’t like McCain. Libertarians didn’t like McCain. Liberals didn’t like McCain. Nobody liked McCain. But they were all stuck with him (though, amusingly enough, four years later, they managed to find a guy even more unlikeable than John McCain, something I didn’t think was possible in 2008).

Hell, most of the time it would appear that John McCain doesn’t much care for John McCain.

So what do you do?

What do you do when you’re stuck with an unlikable candidate? What do you do when you can’t rebrand him, can’t make him more hip and affectionate and heroic – even if you give him a comedic sidekick.

Well, you do what political parties always do in that situation, you admit you’ve got a shitty candidate and then you try to make the other guy look worse.

Sure, our guy sucks, but the other guy sucks even worse!

Sure, our guy shouts at invisible people in the sky, yeah,but the other guy isn’t even an American! That’s right, he’s a gay commie socialist Nazi from Kenya with a robot lizard brain from outer space who travelled through time in order to destroy America! It’s true! It’s all true! And his wife hates white people! Ook! Ook!

By the time McCain got to Minnesota he and his political party had spent months plying the fears of their base. In addition to the time-tested trope of equating liberals to communism and socialism and Marxism and totalitarianism and atheism and Satanism and whatever vaguely defined ism that happens to be handy, they pulled out the all the stops. The strategy meetings must have been like that scene out of Blazing Saddles where Hedley Lamarr demands his henchmen “round up every vicious criminal and gunslinger in the west. I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists!” If Obama was talking about hope and change, these people were pounding the podium in gloom and pessimism.  They told conservatives that their worst fears would come true: America would be destroyed by the communists, the teetering banks would fail, the ruined economy would collapse completely, the poor would riot in the streets and slaughter all the God fearing white men and take their women and skull-fuck their babies. Oh the end times were nigh and it was all Obama’s fault. Vote for John McCain, sure he sucks, but Obama is the Anti-Christ, folks, the Anti-Christ!

And so, John McCain came to Shakopee, Minnesota on a campaign stop and there he made the mistake of handing his microphone to a sweet looking little old lady: 75 year old Gayle Quinnell, who said:

I don’t believe him. I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not, he’s not, he’s uh, he’s not, he’s an Arab!

The look on John McCain’s face in that moment was exactly, exactly, the same as those white parents who engage in casual racism in the privacy of their own homes … and then one day, in the middle of some public place, their sweet little 4-year old points at a black man and loudly blurts out “Nigger!

Oh, heh, heh, woo boy, sorry Mr. Negro, sir. Why, heh heh, I have no idea where he could have learned that word. Heh Heh.

No idea indeed.

Heh heh. Oops.


These people, they’re always shocked and dismayed and embarrassed when the hate and rage and naked fear they themselves created and encouraged boils over and the howling mob rises up and starts lighting shit on fire.

McCain snatched the microphone away from Quinnell and tried to walk back his own bullshit, “Ixnay on the Arabway!  No ma'am, He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues."

The crowd at first appeared to applaud McCain’s response, but months of manufactured paranoia and fear aren’t so easily contained and it became obvious in short order they were actually cheering Quinnell’s drooling dementia. 

The crowd screamed their fear at McCain, throwing his campaign’s own words back at him, Liar! Terrorist! Muslim! Socialist! Arab!

A man shouted from the crowd "The people here in Minnesota want to see a real fight!"

"We want to fight. And I will fight," McCain promised. "But I will be respectful. I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments and I will respect him."

At which point he was soundly booed.

In that moment, you could actually see the last tiny wisp of John McCain’s tortured soul escape from its withered husk and drift up towards the light.

And the twisted monstrosity John McCain himself helped to build whole cloth from rotten scraps and bits of dead meat finally broke free of its chains and smashed out of the castle to roam the countryside terrorizing the villagers. And for the last six years it’s been bellowing in pain maddened rage and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Six years. Six fucking years of birth certificates and fake social security numbers and the imminent End of Days and Biblical Antichrists and teleprompters and FEMA death camps and secret reeducation centers and 911 truthiness and supposed gayness and Michelle’s sex change and Black Panthers and Tea Parties and Communists and Nazis and Socialists and Arabs and gun grabbing and Israel hating and death panels and painting over Old Glory on Air Force one and killing his own ambassadors and killing Breitbart and killing the kids at Sandy Hook and killing the soldiers at Fort Hood (twice) and NOT killing bin Laden and spilling oil in the Gulf of Mexico and HAARPing himself up a hurricane to punish New Jersey and disappearing Malaysian airliners and ordering IRS outrages and alien reptile lizards from the 4th Dimension and Sharia Law and, well, it just goes on and on and on.

Honestly, at this point, you’d be hard pressed to find something, anything, that Obama hasn’t been accused of.  By the ugly tentacled face of Dread Cthulhu, Folks, if Obama was even one tenth the evil mastermind these people have made him out to be, he would have herded us all into the ovens long ago.

Six years they’ve been telling us Obama is going to destroy America.  And every year it gets louder and more shrill and more strident and more panicked and more desperately insane.

And yet – and yet – far from an America destroyed, our nation has steadily improved day by day, month after month, year after year during the entirety of Obama’s Administration. We are better off here in the United States than we have ever been and better off than nearly anywhere else on the planet.

In much of the rest of the world the problems are starvation, hunger, malnutrition, pervasive poverty, epidemic disease, war, rape, terror, slavery, horrifying oppression, homelessness, murder, genocide, natural and manmade disasters in endless succession.

But here in the United States, we are so well off that our worst problem at present, the “crisis” that presently dominates our headlines, is that millions of the less fortunate desperately want to become Americans.

Think about that for a second, won’t you?

Today, we are so well off in America, that we actually have to invent things to be afraid of.

Six years and conservatives are running out of time and running out of insanity.

Six years they’ve been screaming that Obama is going to destroy America.

And yet – and yet – here we are.

There’s only two years left and what if America keeps improving? What then? What if Obama leaves office and the country is measurably better off than it was when he was sworn in?

That, that right there, is what keeps Republicans awake at night (well, that and gay prostitutes, but I digress).

Today, led by Speaker John Boehner, the House of Representatives votes to sue President Obama for not implementing Obamacare fast enough – a law Boehner himself has attempted to repeal or delay 52 times.

Boehner would have you believe that this isn’t about impeachment.

Of course, that’s exactly what he said about impeaching Bill Clinton – and then voted, loudly, to impeach Bill Clinton.

Paul Ryan would have you believe this isn’t about impeachment.

“I see this as a ridiculous game by the president and his political team to try and change the narrative, raise money and turn out their base for an upcoming election that they feel is not going their way. I’ll just leave it at that.”

Oh, ah, so, a “ridiculous” game is it?

Tell me, given the last six years, why shouldn’t Democrats, why shouldn’t President Obama, expect anything other than lunacy from Paul Ryan and his fellow Tea Partiers? After all, they’ve been calling for Obama’s impeachment since the day he was sworn in. Hell, a significant fraction of the crowd that Ryan runs with has vocally and repeatedly called for the President to be dragged from the Oval Office and hung from the nearest lamppost.  Ridiculous? In a political party made up of Birthers, Truthers, religious nutters, revolutionaries, extremists, bigots, conspiracy theorists, rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists, you go right ahead and tell me when it gets too fucking ridiculous, won’t you?

“He said we’re not going there. We’re not interested in that, there’s no way it would be successful. Most of this discussion is coming from the White House, and there’s no reason to talk about it.”

That was Louisiana Representative John Fleming, quoting the Speaker of the House.

We’re not interested in impeachment, because there’s no way that would be successful.  Funny, there’s no way voting to repeal Obamacare 52 goddamned times would be successful either, and yet here we are.

We’re not interested in impeachment … because there’s no way that would be successful.

Because there’s no way that would be successful.  Keep that in mind, because that right there is the whole thing – Fleming let it out of the bag without realizing it. 

Because there’s no way that would be successful.

So, tell me again why I shouldn’t suspect the worst from these people? Go on, I’ll wait while you bullshit yourself up an answer.

Most of this discussion is from the White House.

Ah, and that’s what has conservatives upset.

Obama didn’t run from their threats. 

So sue me, Obama taunted them - and then he smiled.

The Democrats are using conservative insanity to make money. Lots and lots of money. Boy, that’s got to chap those clenched little GOP asses, now doesn’t it?  Especially since the Republican Party has been using this same threat, fueled by their ridiculous conspiracy theories, to milk money out of conservatives for the last six years. 

Sure sucks when the other guy beats you at your own game, don’t it?

And now? Now it seems that the shambling monster McCain let loose has returned, clomping along, leaking noxious fluids and dropping chunks of stinking dead flesh in its footsteps, bellowing insanely and making a mess of things.

Early last month, Sarah Palin’s PAC printed her op-ed on Breitbart, calling for, that’s right, impeachment of Barack Obama.


And suddenly, there was John Boehner, looking all Cranky McWalnuts, Oh, heh, heh, woo boy, sorry. Why, heh heh, I have no idea, no idea, where little Sarah could have learned that word. Heh Heh.

Impeachment. Palin didn’t invent the idea – she has never had an original thought in her life. She’s just a screeching attention whore too damned stupid to realize she’s crapping all over her own party’s carefully laid plans – but then, that’s pretty much what she did to the McCain campaign, isn’t it? So nobody should be all that surprised.  Palin is only saying out loud what conservatives have been saying to themselves in private all along. These people, McCain, Boehner, Ryan, et al, they’re the white parents who use those words when they think they are alone. When they think nobody is listening.

They unleashed a monster and now they have the effrontery to act surprised when it bellows out their dirty little secrets.

Boehner doesn’t expect to win this lawsuit.

That’s not what this is about.

It’s about impeachment.

It’s about getting Obama out of office in disgrace before he doesn’t destroy the country.

They’re running out of time, the economy has recovered, the stock market is at all time highs, America is moving forward again. And they simply cannot, can not, allow that to be Obama’s legacy. He must be impeached and Boehner is testing the waters.

If Republicans take the Senate this year, you watch and see if the first order of business isn’t impeachment.

Don’t you believe for one goddamned second that this isn’t about impeachment.

That’s exactly what they are up to. 

Because if they don’t destroy Barack Obama before the end of his term, they will have to own their bullshit.

And nobody knows that better than John Boehner.

Except perhaps, John McCain.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Few Thoughts on Religion

“Religion is like a knife: you can either use it to cut bread, or stick it in someone's back.”
    ― Desmond Tutu


What’s that old saying?

Religion is like a penis, right?

I think that’s an apt description.

Religion is like a penis.

It’s okay to have one.

It’s okay to be proud of it, I suppose.

It’s not a bad toy to play with, all things considered.  It serves a useful purpose. It makes a lot of people feel better, it gives them release and relief. And it’s been known to make some people very happy. Like the banana, it is ergonomically pleasing – as artwork throughout the ages can attest. Many words in song and poetry have been dedicated to descriptions of its phallic glory. 

Some might even consider it divine.

But like anything else, it can be – and often is – abused.

It can give joy and contentment, or it can cause the owner a great deal of pain – and no end of problems. And let’s be honest, in a certain light, from the wrong angle, when you throw cold water on it, well, it’s a little ridiculous.

When you start obsessing over your organ, worshipping it, preening and polishing and comparing it to others, you’re just jerking off – and you know what religion says about blind self indulgence. 

If you pull it out in public and start flogging it around and demanding that everybody else bow down before your rampant magnificence, most people think you’re just being a dick. Though, of course, people being people, there are always those who will drop to their knees and swallow whatever it is that you’re handing out.

And when you start sticking it into others without their permission, well, my friend, that’s called rape.


A post of mine on Facebook led to a conversation about religion and politics. You know, the usual. In the course of the discussion I made a lengthy comment regarding my particular view of religion in general.  A number of folks asked me to turn those comments into an essay here so that they could share it more widely.

You ask, I deliver.

Over the years, given the things I write here, certain people have gotten it into their heads that I’m anti-religion, or that I’m some kind of militant atheist, or that I hate all religious people. 

None of that is correct – though I honestly don’t much care if you think so.

I don’t have any particular problem with the idea of a deity, or deities plural if you prefer. The universe is a big place, if we manage to survive long enough as a species, sooner or later we’re going to encounter entities indistinguishable from gods – if we don’t transform ourselves into such beings first, that is.

I certainly don’t profess to know for certain if there is a god or not.  And I mostly just don’t care.  God stays on his side of the universe and I stay on mine. If he (or she) needs something, he knows where to find me – but I don’t heed mumbo jumbo and I have no use for proxies, if he’s got something to say to me, he’d best show up in person and speak plainly.  You tell me you’re speaking for god, you’d better have a signed power of attorney in hand or other such proof, otherwise I put you in the same category with magicians (I might enjoy the showmanship, but I know there’s a trick).

No it’s not the idea of god that I have a problem with, it’s religion.

Now, I don't have anything against religion per se.  Everybody believes in something, and like the aforementioned penis, so long as you keep it to yourself unless invited otherwise, you and I are good.

Where I have a problem is when people use their religion as a cudgel to beat others over the head.

And just for the record, I feel the same way about militant non-believers.

You believe? Fine.

You don't believe. That’s fine too.

But you start acting like a raging dick about it, then we're going to have a problem.

This is a defining criteria with me.  I am pathologically incapable of suffering fools, or dicks, gladly.  I don’t want to and I don’t have to. You stick your religion, or your cock, in my face and you can expect to get kicked in the balls.

A few days ago, a reader complained that I seem to talk about religion a lot. And I do. But, see, here’s the thing, if you don’t want me to keep harping on your religion then quit bringing it up.

You may not believe this, but I never set out to offend believers (or non-believers for that matter). Unless they ask for it.

Again, it’s like a penis, you pull it out in public and start waving it around, then you’d better be willing to accept the resulting critical analysis.  Don’t like what people say about your pride and joy? It hurts your feelings and makes you feel bad? Then keep it in your pants.

People like Westboro Baptist Church? They're asking for it. Those people stand on the corner waving their dicks at the public every single day.  The US Constitution gives them the right to do so, but that doesn’t mean I have to respect their virulent hatred – and I don’t.

Evangelicals like Michele Bachmann? She's asking for it. The Constitution might give her the right to act like an ignorant dimwitted bug-eyed screeching Jesus freak, but that doesn’t mean I have to respect her hateful stupidity – and I don’t.

Superstitious loons like Rick Perry? He’s asking for it. The Constitution might give him the right to command Texans to pray, foam at the mouth and roll on the floor, and lift up their arms to heaven asking their god to make it rain, but that doesn’t mean I have to join in – and I won’t.

TV preachers who offer salvation in exchange for dollars? They're asking for it. The guy on the corner waving his holy book and screaming at traffic? He’s asking for it. Politicians who violate their sworn oath (an oath, by the way, that they swear on the Bible and end with “So help me, God”) by attempting to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us? They’re asking for it.  Glassy eyed lunatics who knock on my door on Saturday morning and try to shove some religious tract into my hand while damning me to their hell? They’re asking for it. 

These people go around attempting to jam their dicks into every orifice they see. I find this offensive and obnoxious, and it tends to make me offensive and obnoxious in turn.

But that doesn’t mean I think every religious person is a prick, or stupid, or ignorant, or deluded, or obnoxious – because I don’t. Not at all. In fact, I have a great deal of respect for religions, Christians for example, who actually live the tenets of their belief.  Jesus, if what we know of him is accurate, seems like a guy I could respect and call a friend – heck, I betcha he’d be a regular here on Stonekettle Station.

I know a lot of religious folks, including a number of ordained clergy, and they don’t go around acting like raging hard-ons. 

The problem I have with religion, and evangelical Christianity in particular, is when others insist that I live up to their beliefs ... when they don't themselves.

You claim to be Christian, a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, but you only preach the Old Testament and ignore Christ's very explicit orders to give up wealth, to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to heal the sick, to do unto others, to reserve judgment for God, to attend first the beam in your own eye, and above all to be kind. And not only do you ignore those commands, but actively dismiss them and rationalize them away when they are brought to your attention,  then you shouldn’t be surprised when I mock your hypocrisy.

Honestly, if you can't live up to the requirements of your religion, then why should I?

If you don’t respect the commands of your own prophet, why should I?

When you insist that I respect your beliefs, but you show no respect whatsoever for mine in return, then you shouldn’t be surprised by my loud disrespect.  You don’t get to damn me to your hell, you don’t get to judge me or anybody else for that matter – and that’s in your Bible, you can look it up.

If you want me to respect your religion, then be worthy of respect.

It’s really just that simple.

And here's the rest of it: when your religion demands equal time with science, then it should have to meet the exact same burden of rigor as science if you want me to take it seriously.

I don't have a problem with creationism being taught in public school, so long as it's taught in mythology class right next to Thor and the Loch Ness Monster.

But the minute you want to insert your religion into science class, you'd better be bringing along the same, the exact same, degree of scientific rigor as physics or chemistry or astronomy or biology or whatever field of inquiry you’d care to name.

And I don't think that’s too much to ask. 

In fact, it should be simple, shouldn’t it?

After all religion claims all of creation, from the beginning of time to its end across the width and depth of the entire universe.  Now surely, out of all that, from creation to man lives inside a whale to the loaves/fishes to angels destroy a city to burning bushes to one guy builds a boat the size of an aircraft carrier out of sticks and fills it full of animals and rides out the end of the world to resurrection itself, surely out all of that, you can find something that can be tested to the exact same degree of scientific rigor required for publication in any reputable mainstream scientific journal.

I think that's fair, and I'm not asking for anything that I don't demand of science.

And as long as we're on the subject of "equal time," you want your religion taught in public school? Then "equal" means you're willing to accept the teaching of science, say evolution by a certified evolutionary biologist, in religious schools. No? Then don't talk to me about equal, because now you're asking to be mocked in public.

I don't have a problem with religion until it insists that I believe without proof, until it attempts to force others to comply.

And that's exactly what you’re doing when you insist that this is a Christian nation. It’s not a Christian nation and never has been. Just as it’s not a Jewish nation, or a Muslim one, or an atheist one. It’s a nation where Christians, and all other beliefs, are free to live their lives without fear of persecution so long as they don’t harm others.  But that doesn’t mean you get to claim the whole goddamned nation for yourself or use your religion to beat the rest of us about the head and shoulders.

And that is exactly what you’re doing when you attempt to force your beliefs on others.

When it comes to things like homosexuality, if you don't like gay marriage because it makes Jesus soggy and hard to light, then don't get gay married. If you don’t believe in birth control because some doddering old virgin in a pointy hat says it’s bad, then don’t go around sticking your dick in things. But you don't get to make other people comply with your religion. Don't like it? Too fucking bad, go complain to Jesus or Thor or Cthulhu or whoever it is you give your money to, but I don't want to hear it.

And if you keep preaching at me, if you keep attempting to force the country that I live in into your church, if you keep attempting to shove your cock in my face, then you'd better be prepared for what comes next.

Finally, and because I was asked, yes, frankly I do often find certain militant non-believers to be just as obnoxious as fanatical believers.

I'm not saying the two are equal, I’m not saying they are the same, I'm saying dicks come in all flavors (yep, I did that on purpose).

You can be a non-believer without being an obnoxious jerk about it. But that’s how I feel about most things. Adults can disagree without being dicks, many don’t, but it is possible.

Next, of course, you'll ask me what label applies to me.

The answer is "none."

I'm neither a believer nor a non-believer.

There's no label for me, just as there’s no label for people who don’t believe in Leprechauns but honestly don’t mind if other people do.

There’s no label for me and I like it that way just fine.

“Religion is like a pair of shoes. Find one that fits for you, but don't make me wear yours.”
George Carlin

Sunday, July 20, 2014

One Small Step, A Bittersweet Anniversary

This essay first appeared on Stonekettle Station on July 20, 2009, the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Nothing has changed since.



Houston, Tranquility Base here…the Eagle has landed.

Forty-five years ago today, the entire world listened as Neil Armstrong spoke those words from the surface of the Moon.

Eagle, that fragile tinker-toy of a spaceship, had just set down on the dusty regolith of the Mare Tranquillitatis and it wasn’t just Mission Control who had been holding their collective breath, but the entire population of planet Earth – with those words, we all started breathing again.

In that one moment, the entire human race was as close to united as it has ever been, black, white, brown, yellow and red, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, atheists, and agnostics, from the most sophisticated rocket scientists at NASA and Star City to the most primitive bushman, capitalists and communists and socialists and the left and the right and the undecided all stared at the moon in abject wonder and shivered at the smallness of man against the vast and terrible backdrop of the universe. They cried and they cheered and they hugged random strangers in the streets. They marveled at what men could do if only they dared dream big enough and they all wished the crew of Apollo 11 Godspeed.

A few hours later we watched as Armstrong and Aldrin opened the hatch and descended the ladder and made the first foot prints on the surface of a world other than Earth.

There was a silver plaque mounted on the side of the LEM’s descent stage, it said:

Here, men from the planet Earth
first set foot upon the moon

July 1969 A.D.

We came in peace, for all mankind.

Beneath those words were the signatures of Apollo 11’s crew, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, and the President of the United States, Richard Nixon.

It was as if ten thousand years of recorded history, of centuries of scientific advance, of decades of effort, and the dreams of millions had come together in that one moment solely in order to place that message on the surface of another world. You could feel it. Hell, even as a seven year old kid, I could feel it. In that moment the world was different – men had walked upon the surface of another world and everything was about to change. Before that pivotal event our dreams had been limited to the near horizons of Earth, but in that moment our vision was limitless and the whole universe spread out before us. Mars would be next, and the moons of Jupiter, and then Saturn. There was talk of ships that could lift whole colonies, hundreds of people, into space, Orion, rising on a column of atomic fire and even of an unmanned probe to the near stars, Daedalus.

Men had walked on the Moon and there was nothing that we could not do.

It sounds impossible now, ships like Orion, giant stations in orbit wheeling against the stars, colonies on the moon, on Mars – but in 1969 it didn’t seem so. Less than eight years before, John F. Kennedy gave his famous speech, “We choose to go to the Moon. We chose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard!” Damn straight. And we did. We kept the promise and the vision of a murdered president, a promise made in one of the darkest hours of our history, the Cuban Missile Crisis. We kept the promise despite the turmoil of that terrible decade, the battle for civil rights, the radically changing culture, the Cold War and the Vietnam War and the threat of imminent nuclear Armageddon. And in less than nine years we went from barely making it into low Earth orbit to the Moon itself.

We choose to go to the moon, you damned right we do.

In 1969, nothing seemed impossible. We would walk the surface of other worlds, we would build our homes there and birth our children there and dream our own dreams. People believed.

Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins came home to parades and the adulations of billions. Six missions followed them to the moon, five landed.

But, by 1974 it was over, all of it.

The hippy dreams of the sixties were lost in the reality of drug addiction and venereal disease and Charlie Mason, Nixon had resigned in disgrace, and we had retreated from Vietnam leaving 50,000 of our countrymen dead on the battlefield. And in far less than five years flights to the moon had become so routine, so boring, that they weren’t even covered by the media. In that five years the dreamers and the engineers and the scientists and the astronauts and the men with the Right Stuff were replaced with accountants and administrators and bureaucrats and those with no imagination.

Somewhere in that five years the dreams of 1969 died and no one even noticed.

The last men to walk on the moon, Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt, lifted off in their ship Challenger from the Sea of Serenity on December 14th, 1972. And when they, and Command Ship pilot Ron Evans, returned to Earth in America, it would be the last time human beings would leave low Earth orbit.

There were supposed to be three more missions, Apollo 18, 19, 20 – and follow on programs after that, building on the success of Apollo.

The ship that would have become Apollo 18, a fully operational moonship, rests on its side now, moldering and covered in bird shit on the grass in front of Johnson Space Flight Center – The mightiest machine ever built by the hands of man, a ship designed to land men on the surface of another world and bring them home safely again, the culmination of the skill and daring and dreams of millions is now nothing more than the largest and most expensive lawn decoration in the history of mankind. A testament to failed dreams and the cowardice of politicians and the small horizons our children are born beneath today.

Pieces of the ship that might have become Apollo 19 rest now in a similar display on the lawn in front of Kennedy Space Center. That display is made of bits and pieces, some operational and some not, a junk sculpture made from the debris of our dreams, things that could have been and never were.

Apollo 20 was never built, the command module and lunar modules were scrapped, the uncompleted carcasses dumped in a landfill. Pieces of the Apollo program were locked away forgotten in dusty storerooms or sold off to museums. Some components were later used for Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz rendezvous – sort of like using a semi-truck to deliver the mail and just about as foolish and wasteful.

I’ve been to the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington DC and I’ve seen the Apollo 11 Command Module, Columbia, scarred and pitted, resting beside the great machines of history, the Wright Flyer, The Spirit of St. Louis, The Bell X-1, the Voyager, and Spaceship One and the sight brings tears to my eyes for all the things man has dared and done. And I’ve been to Florida and Texas and I’ve seen our future out there rusting in the sun and the rain and the sight fills me with revulsion and disgust and sadness for all the things we could have done, and did not.

As a kid, I heard great men say that the stars would belong to my generation, I watched brave men walk on the surface of another world and dared to believe that I too would do so some day. That belief has filled me with wonder my whole life and driven me to far ends of the Earth in search of adventure and mystery and far distant shores. That desire filled me with great dreams and instilled in me a belief that men can achieve anything if they only believe, if they only have the courage to try, if they only have the will to seek new horizons and push the edge of the safe and the known. I firmly believe that the meek shall inherit the Earth, and that they are welcome to it - but the rest of the universe belongs to those willing to risk all in order to see what is beyond the next hill.

As a teenager, I watched cowardly men protest that the cost was too great and the price too high, and I watched those selfish fearful sons of bitches dismantle the space program and turn our future into lawn ornaments. I wondered then, and I still wonder now, how if we cannot afford to build a future for all of mankind how then can we afford to spend twice as much in order to build those weapons that would destroy all of mankind? In the last thirty years we Americans have built exactly five manned spacecraft. Five, and one of those only as a grudging replacement for the lost Challenger. Columbia we chose not to replace. America relies now on Russian built craft and has no manned ships of her own at all. In the last thirty years however, we've built thousands of nuclear bombs. Thousands. We've built hideously expensive invisible airplanes that we can't even use. We are even now dismantling many of those bombs and missiles and I am grateful that it is so, but, my God, the colossal waste, the colossal folly of it all. Funny that we can afford to build our own destruction, but not our own future. Funny, and tragic, and ironic, isn’t it?

As an adult I’ve watched our halfhearted efforts to stay in space, to keep thirty year old technology flying, and build a space station that instead of housing thousands, or even hundreds, or even tens, can barely support three - ironically the same number who went to the moon in a tiny capsule four decades ago and the same number who flew onboard Skylab twenty five years ago. Three seems to be the limit of NASA’s vision. As an adult I've watched as robots and machines roll across alien land in place of the men and woman who sent them, and it is no more exciting or inspiring than watching a video game. As an adult I’ve watched my dreams fade and die and know that I will never walk the surface of another world, and yet I look up there at the moon and still dare hope that some day we will see the lights of cities shining back from that shadowed crescent.

You know, it wouldn’t bother me so damned much if we had tried and failed. But we didn’t fail. We did it, we went to the moon, we could have gone to Mars and beyond.

And then we just quit.

We gave up.

Forty-three years ago, we turned our backs on Kennedy’s vision. We didn’t do the things that were hard. We did the easy part, and then we walked away. And I see that legacy all around me here in America today, the failure to face the challenges, to take the difficult roads, and do the things that are hard. We argue and squabble and hate each other, we spend our time trying to tear down what others have built and instead of driving forward into a future that we have forged, we cower in fear. Instead of following the men and women of vision and daring, we listen to the counsel of those small minded fearful men who admonish us not to dream.

My son, like most of his generation, has no interest in space. His school, though a fine place it may be, does not have the classrooms decorated with pictures of the men and the ships and the planets and the stars. There are no big dreams, no great national goals to galvanize his generation.

For these kids it’s not that the dreams have died, it’s that they never were.


"As I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I'd like to just say what I believe history will record, that America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17."

Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 17 Commander.
The last man to walk on the moon, December 14, 1972.

Friday, July 18, 2014

An Eye For An Eye In The Country Of The Blind

"...I couldn't find anything about the Israel-Palestine conflict on your wall. Was it because you didn't get the news about what is happening there or you just didn't give a damn on what's happening in the far middle east?"

It’s mostly the latter.

Oh, well, okay, that’s not entirely true.

That question came from a reader who follows me on Facebook. This essay is an expanded version of my reply there.

It’s not that I really don’t care about what’s going on over there right now, because I do.

What happens in the Middle East, particularly when it comes to Israel’s precarious relationship to its neighbors affects the whole world in a thousand different ways big and small.

So, I do care.

But honestly, what can I say about the current mess that hasn’t already been said elsewhere? Oh hey, look at that, Israelis and Palestinians are busy slaughtering each other again. Show of hands, how many of you are surprised?  No, really, how many of you charmingly optimistic people honestly expected the Israelis and the Palestinians to sit down and live together in peace and harmony?


Yeah, me neither.

I look at the dead kids and the rockets and the rubble and the ground invasion into Gaza and I think, goddamn, I can’t tell if this is live or archive video – because it’s just oh so familiar. We’ve seen it over and over and over and over.

Of course I care about the innocents caught in the middle of this insanity. Sure. But the conflict itself?  The countries and the politics and the religion and the assholes who keep it going? That’s been going on my whole life, and long before, and frankly I’m long past caring about the extremists on either side. You know, it occurs to me that there has never been a week in my entire life that these goddamned people haven't been in the news killing each other. They've been killing each other for as long as I can remember - and a hell of a lot longer than that.

Everybody's God is buried in Israel.

Or they have some ancient wrecked temple there.

Or one of their various Holy Joes did a rain-dance and spoke some mumbo jumbo or consecrated a shiny rock or a magic shrub or had some divine world changing epiphany there.

Jehovah gave the land to the Jews. Jesus gave it to the Christians. Allah gave it to the Muslims. Or the British with the willing complicity of Europe and America, out of guilt for their inaction during the Holocaust, gave it to the Zionists and screwed the Palestinians. Take your pick. Everybody has a historical claim, no matter whose history you believe.

Both sides are right.

Both sides are wrong.

Both sides are guilty of atrocities, both sides are aggrieved, both sides are convinced that the other side are terrorists, and both sides are positive they’re justified in their bloody violence.

And Israelis kill Palestinian kids.

And Palestinians kill Israeli kids.

And there’s enough death on both sides to fill a battlefield with dead children and dead husbands and dead wives and dead mothers and dead fathers and dead bystanders of every stripe.

The Israelis started it.

The Palestinians started it.

Hell, nobody knows who really started it, it depends on where you draw the line and you can easily find evidence to support any viewpoint you like and plenty of folks do.

The Jews are the victims.

The Muslims are the victims.

It's all the Israelis’ fault.

It's all the Palestinians’ fault.

This land is the Jewish homeland.

This land is the Palestinian homeland.

The Israelis are dedicated to an exclusively Jewish nation.

Hamas, speaking for Palestinians, is equally dedicated to the destruction of that nation.

On and on, round and round, eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, life for a life and the fuck all I care at this point.

We Americans, we have this idiotic naive idea that we're somehow going wade into the middle of this shit-fight and broker some kind of lasting peace complete with flying bunnies and magic rainbows. We've got a road map and everything.  Every new administration sends the Secretary of State over there with some big plan and they make a bunch of speeches and the TV shows Jews in suits and Muslims in robes shaking hands like they’re touching raw sewage with their bare skin. They all face the cameras and smile with their mouths and not their eyes.

Then the US Secretary of State announces that things are looking good … about thirty seconds before it all goes straight to hell. 

Eventually they all sign something and maybe they even stop killing each other for five minutes.  Whichever political party is in power in America pats themselves on the back at their cleverness and says, see? This time it'll be different because those other guys, that other political party, yeah they suck and they hate Israel and they hate America. Not us, see? Boyah!

And while we're handing out the cigars and the peace medals, Hamas lobs a rocket into a Kibbutz daycare center or a bunch of radical Zionists dust off their Mogen Davids and fire up their bulldozers and they're all back to killing each other before the ink is dry on the peace accord.

These people and their murderous bullshit are the fundamental cause behind 90% of the problems in the Middle East. Damned near every violent conflict over there ultimately traces back to this idiotic war and America’s constant meddling in it.

Let’s be honest for a minute, shall we? Brutally honest. Strategically honest. We get nothing from Israel. The relationship is strictly one way.  We give them money and support and take it in the ass from every other country in the Middle East over our unending love for Israel. Hell, Israel attacked us and killed our people, and I served under a Master Chief who was right there that day as the aerial torpedoes smashed through USS Liberty’s hull, and we still give them unconditional support with no strings attached. And as a result we have been at odds with the rest of the Middle East, the Muslim world, for seventy years – the very Muslim nations that we, America, depend on every single day for the oil and the money to run our entire economy.  Now you tell me, which one is more important to us? Really. No, be brutally honest, which one is more important to America? The nation we get nothing from, or the nations we can’t run our economy without?

What’s that? Oh, yes, the birthplace of Jesus, right.  How foolish of me.  Maybe, if we pray enough, he’ll show up and multiply the barrels for us the way he did those loaves and fishes. 

Half of America wrings its hands in woe, wishing for peace and crying about all the little children.  We argue endlessly about Israel. Can’t you see? Israel has a right to their security! No no no, the Palestinians are second class citizens in their own country!  Fuck the Arabs, they’re just terrorist animals! No fuck the Jews, those murdering fascists they’re no better than the Nazis! On and on and round and round and an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and it just never ends.

Meanwhile the other half of America thinks the slaughter is a dandy idea. They think it’s the beginning of the end and they just can't wait for it all to explode so that 90 Foot Tall Angry Bearded Robot Laser Jesus will return in fiery End Times to wrestle his evil devil twin from the Mirror Universe and to slaughter all the people they hate like it says in their holy book. Then they’ll get sucked up to heaven and live happily in their perfect ever-after – made all the sweeter by the thought of the rest of us broiling in Bible Hell for all of eternity right next to the Jews and the Muslims.

Look, I’ve been to Israel. It’s an okay place, in the brief moments between the slaughter.

But I’ve talked to the Jews and I’ve talked to the Arabs, and while I in no way claim to be an expert I come away with the impression that neither side is all that interested in peace. Oh they say they are, but it’s a kind of peace. The same kind of peace the extremists here want for America. The kind of peace where if the other side just either knuckles under or, more desirably, just fucks off and dies, then there’ll be peace they can live with.

These people, they don't want to live together, none of them, and they don't pretend anything else - it's all the rest of us who suffer that delusion.

These people, Israelis and Palestinians, won't have peace until one side or the other, or both, are all as dead as their prophets.

To be honest, I've long since lost patience with these idiots and I don't give much of a damn about either side.

If you insist on taking an eye for an eye, sooner or later everybody ends up blind.

As long as there is even one of each left, they'll keep right on killing each other.

So, maybe the sooner they get it done, the better for them and for all the rest of us. Harsh? Sure it’s harsh. And cold. And immoral. And unsympathetic. You bet. And I take no joy in it, but none of them care what I say, they just go right on killing each other regardless of the impact their hate and their war and their slaughter has on the rest of the world, so, really what sympathy do I owe them?  If they, the Israelis and the Palestinians both, are perfectly willing to keep throwing their children into the fire, why in the hell should I care? Why should I care more about their lives than they do themselves?

But, of course, I do care.

And I’d love to see this conflict end in real peace. Hell, if the Catholics and the Protestants of Northern Ireland figured out how to do it then I don’t see why these religious assholes can’t too.

But they won’t.

See, I’m a realist and I grew up with a recovered alcoholic and he always told me that you can’t make somebody else quit drinking.  And he was absolutely right. If they want to drink, then by God they’ll find a way. They’ll drink themselves into the grave and they’ll take just as many enablers along with them as are willing to climb aboard and they’ll feel not one shred of guilt just so long as they can get one more sip. 

No, the only way somebody quits drinking is if they want to.

Nobody, nobody, can make them.

And it’s no different here. I’d be perfectly willing to help if they really wanted to stop. But, these people are at war because they don’t want peace.  If they wanted peace, the Israelis would start treating the Palestinians with some respect as full citizens in their own homeland. And if they wanted peace, the Palestinians would stop shooting rockets into Israel and engaging in terrorist attacks.  And if we wanted peace, we Americans, then we’d stop enabling this conflict and start treating both sides equally instead as an extension of our own partisan civil war.

The simple brutal truth of the matter is that the reason there isn’t peace in Israel is because nobody wants peace in Israel.

Other than the poor sons of bitches caught in the middle.

The world will never have lasting peace so long as men reserve for war the finest human qualities. Peace, no less than war, requires idealism and self-sacrifice, and a righteous and dynamic faith.
    - John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State under Eisenhower

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Stonekettle Station Redesign

As I mentioned in previous posts, recent events have caused me to take a long hard look at what I do here. 

Circumstances and thieving bastards have forced me to take some long overdue steps to protect my intellectual property. Additionally, as has been noted by my family and many readers, it’s long past time that I get serious about transitioning to professional writing as a full time occupation.  And, again as noted by a number of readers, the design of Stonekettle Station was starting to look more than a bit outdated.

As such, I’ve been making some changes over the last month. One of those changes is a redesign of Stonekettle Station itself. If you haven’t noticed already, the appearance of the blog has been significantly overhauled (If you don’t notice a new look, try clearing your cache and refreshing your browser). Most of the obvious changes are cosmetic, I wanted to update Stonekettle Station to more reflect contemporary blog design and to better protect myself.

Since a number of folks asked, the background picture is Pioneer Peak in Palmer, Alaska – that is, it’s my backyard.  And yes, I took the picture. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a photographer in addition to being a writer and artist. Some of my photography will start appearing for sale via a link on this site in the near future.

Not all the changes to Stonekettle Station are cosmetic. I've changed how things work under the hood, streamlining the underlying structure of the website which should speed up load times and make things work better for both you and me. You’ll also note that I’ve updated the information appearing on the right sidebar, including my bio which now includes the occupation “freelance writer” because I’m now getting paid for some of my work.  Speaking of which, as I move towards becoming a full-time professional writer with a kid in college, it has become necessary for me to monetize the blog. Many of you asked if you could help keep me in cheese sandwiches (writers run on cheese sandwiches, coffee, and strong whiskey. That's a fact and you can look it up on the internet). The answer to that question is: yes, hell yes, and thank you. There is now a "donate" button displayed prominently on the right side of the main page. You may, if you think the content here is worth anything, give me money directly through PayPal or via whatever form of electronic tender you desire including credit/debit cards. You may give as much or as little as you like. You can even set up a reoccurring donation on a monthly or yearly basis. It’s entirely up to you.   

Additionally, within the next several days, Google ads will begin appearing on the blog. I will attempt to limit them and make them as unobtrusive as possible. But ads are how websites make real money, especially if they pull in the volume of traffic Stonekettle Station now does. And I'm not in a position where I can ignore that opportunity. If you're running an ad-blocker, you won't see them but I won't make anything from your visit either. And that's okay, I'm not asking you to turn off your ad-blocking plug-in. But you might consider a small donation if you don't want to be bothered with the ads when they begin to appear.  Note: this holds true for all blogs like Stonekettle Station and other small independent news sites. If you enjoy what you get there, you might consider turning off your ad-blocker or making a donation to help keep these places running. But again, that’s entirely up to you.

Let me be clear, I am not asking you to donate. I'm not asking you to suffer the ads. You are welcome to continue enjoying (or hating) Stonekettle Station for free.  But if you do choose to donate or allow ads then you will have a huge warm fuzzy feeling of awesome goodness, and I will personally put in a good word for you with the deity of your choice  –or–  I will raise a glass of good Irish whiskey in your honor, whichever tickles your fancy.

Expect continued changes and refinements over the next few weeks. Hopefully this will make your visit here better. Feel free to offer suggestions, I’ll probably ignore them, but hey, doesn’t hurt to try.

And thanks. Thanks for everything, thanks for coming by, thanks for reading, thanks for your interest, thanks for your kind words and constructive feedback. I sincerely appreciate it.

//Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mother of Exiles

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
  - The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus, 1883
     Engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty


Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...

Well, give me your tired and poor yearning to be free just so long as they’re from Ireland or Scotland or Germany. The Netherlands? Italy? We’ll take them. England’s okay too. Maybe Poland and Greece.  Even the stinky French. Why, we’ll even take the Russians. Sure what the heck, welcome to America! Come on in.

Brown Spanish speaking children from where now? Central America? Whoa, not so fast.

Hey, there’s a reason why the Statue of Liberty holds her lamp above New York Harbor and not the Texas border. Just saying.

Because that’s America right? That’s who we are, a bunch of fat old white Christians with signs and bibles screaming hatred at a busload of brown children.

Yeah, fuck you, huddled masses yearning to breathe free! Back on the bus! 

America is for Americans and there isn’t enough for you. Get back on the bus!

No, there isn’t enough for you. No.

We’re a country that has so much goddamned food we have TV shows about it. We have food festivals. We have entire cable channels dedicated to food, just pictures and pictures of food, of people eating food, of animals eating food. Every kind of food.  Burgers so big it takes a football team to eat one. Contests where Joey Chesnut eats sixty-nine hotdogs, sixty fucking nine hotdogs in one sitting. Sixty nine hotdogs, that’s more fat and protein and calories than any dozen kids in the slums around Panama City see in a week.  Guy Fieri drives from restaurant to restaurant and he wipes more food off his fat bling covered face than half the world eats in a day. The average American family scrapes more food into the garbage each month than most of the poor south of our border see in a year. We have so much cheap food in America, that our poor people are suffering from an “Epidemic of Obesity.” 

But we can’t spare a sandwich for a busload of poor brown children.  Fuck ‘em! Back on the bus!

Edit: Epidemic of Obesity. Read it in the context of what we’re talking about here.  I’m not saying we have an epidemic of obesity because poor people are wallowing in food. I get it. Poor people are obese in America because they get shitty food. The calories are packed into cheap carbs and sugars and processed fake cheese. I'm not blaming poor people for it, nor am I implying directly or indirectly that poor people are obese because they get "soooooo much food" – to quote a commenter below.  What I’m saying is that those kids on the border? They're not even getting shitty calories. They're hungry. We're the only country that has obese poor people. Again, I’m not saying it’s their fault, what I’m saying is that you don't see a whole hell of a lot of poor Somalis or Guatemalans with the same problem. America has so much, we can afford to throw junk food at poor people without a second thought and then complain about an "epidemic of obesity." That's my point here. End Edit

We’re a country where preachers are millionaires. Religion has its own TV shows and theme parks. We don’t just have churches in America, we have giant Mega-churches, temples of glory made from gold and crystal and thousand dollar bills!  We live in a country where Joel Osteen’s weekly collection plate take averages half a million dollars in cash.  We live in a country where religion rakes in tax free billions and buys itself the court and the election and looks out of our TVs every week complaining about persecution.  Persecution.  We live in a country of divine exceptionalism where, according to outspoken religious leaders, our borders were drawn by no less than God himself. Oh yes, those children on our southern border are violating God’s very law, according to America’s bestest Christians:

What we learn from the Bible is that borders are God’s idea, and that such borders are to be respected. They are not to be crossed without permission.

That was Bryan Fischer, in an article for Barbwire. He doesn’t say who you should get permission from, Jesus I guess, since they’re His borders and all. Texas mega-church pastor Robert Jeffress agrees, in an interview on Fox and Friends he said,

Yes, Jesus loved children, but he also respected law. He said, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. So, we need to do both. Show compassion, but secure the borders.

Jesus respected the law? The same Jesus who got himself nailed to a cross for breaking secular law and the edicts of the local religious leaders? That Jesus? Is that the law abiding Jesus we’re talking about?

I ran a, albeit cursory, Google search, but I can’t seem to find where either of these men condemned those Christians who routinely cross borders without permission, carting boxes full of bibles and the Good Word in defiance of God’s law and a nation’s sovereignty – like those Americans held in North Korea for attempting to proselytize the communists. Or hey, how about the more than fifty charismatic evangelical churches who belong to Ministries Without Borders? I mean, the sin is right there in the name, isn’t it? But, I guess that’s different, when you’re breaking God’s law for Jesus.

Funny thing, I’d be willing to bet whatever sum of money you like, that the vast majority of those kids crowding our southern border are Christians, come from overwhelmingly Christian nations. But, hey, God’s law, right?

You know, it’s damned convenient how God hates all the same people Bryan Fisher does, isn’t it?

Despite their piety and their tearful respect for Jesus’ compassion and their billions in tax-free genuine US dollars, American Christians can’t spare a dime or a bed or a fucking sandwich for a busload of brown children who are coming from real actual persecution and exploitation and degradation and poverty and horror upon horror.

No, Jesus says fuck ‘em. Get your little brown ass back on the bus, Pendejo!

We’re a nation where half our population decries abortion and birth control. We cry crocodile tears for all the little babies and their oh so precious right to life. But real, live, breathing children? Fuck ‘em! Back on the bus, America has no room for you!

Ah, but of course it’s all Obama’s fault, right?

We wouldn’t be in this pickle if it wasn’t for Barack Obama and his evil plan to brownify America. 

Oh we never had to secure the borders before Obama, by God! He invited them here, these dirty diseased little parasites, didn’t he?

And now it’s all come undone, yes it has.

This, my shiny electronic friends, this is Obama’s Katrina.

That’s what they’re saying right? Obama’s Katrina moment. Oh sure, conservatives have called the BP Oil Spill Obama’s Katrina. And the Fort Hood Shootings. And the NSA leaks. And the Swine Flu outbreak. And the AIG bonus scandal. And the slow economic recovery and the unemployment rate and housing, those were all Obama’s Katrina. There was Hurricane Sandy. There was even a propane shortage in the Midwest that invoked momentary speculation about Obama’s Katrina moment.  And, of course, there was the Affordable Healthcare Act. And Syria, Haiti, and Benghazi. All Obama’s supposed Katrina. 

Why, there was even speculation that Obama’s “Mom Jeans” were going to be his Katrina.

But this, this, at last is Obama’s Katrina.

Those brown children massing on the border? This is finally it for real, man!

That’s what Texas Governor Rick Perry says,

“As I recall President Bush got chastised greatly for not showing up in New Orleans when Katrina occurred.”

Bush had a Katrina, and the partisan scales must be balanced. Conservatives won’t stop until they get equality – Obama must have a true Katrina. And, boy oh boy, this time, this time, they just might have a valid comparison.

A bunch of poor brown people caught in the middle of a humanitarian disaster? Pretend like it’s not our problem. A deadlocked government, too caught up in their own partisan bullshit to take decisive action? Deny the victims food and shelter and medical care and adequate sanitation. Build a wall around them … and shoot any that try to get out? 

That’s what Militia Jesus would do, right? Fuck ‘em, get back on the bus!

Well, maybe Governor Perry is right, because it sure sounds like Katrina to me.

And it’s all Obama’s fault. It’s Obama’s fault that we’ve been propping up and toppling corrupt Central American governments and their various revolutions and insurgencies since Teddy Roosevelt decided to build a canal across Colombia.

And sure, it was Obama who funneled more illicit money than the gross domestic product of entire nations into Central and South America to satiate America’s bottomless lust for cocaine and black tar heroin and weed – oblivious to the bloody violence and the horrifying oppression that results.

It was Obama, right? Who ignored the poverty and the disease and the corruption and the exploitation that grows day by day south of our borders – horror so great that children are willing to risk all, willing to risk rape and murder and enslavement and death in the boiling desert, willing to risk the wrath of “Patriots” with their signs and their guns and their Duck Dynasty hats and their well fed bellies spilling over their camouflaged belts, just for a chance – no matter how slim – at America.

Because that’s how it is, you know. I’ve been there, Central America, South America, and I’m not just talking about the spotless tourist beaches in Cabo and Mazatlan and the Disney adventure tours in San Jose where cruise liners the size of Las Vegas hotels arrive to unleash a flood of well heeled gringos come for cheap entertainment and cheap prescription drugs and cheap sex. Where the locals look on in well concealed envy and play their dimwitted roles for a few American dollars, si, Senor! Muchos gracias, Senora! No, I’m talking about the other places too, places in Ecuador and Guatemala and El Salvador and Mexico and Panama and Colombia where it’s so goddamned desperate that people are willing to risk everything, even the lives of their children, for a chance at something better.  It’s so bad that no matter how many barriers we put up, no matter how high the wall or wide the moat, no matter the guns and the barbed wire and the dogs and the confinement centers and the militia, no matter the corpulent Americans waving their signs and screaming hate in purple faced rage, it is still orders of magnitude better than where they came from.

No matter how many times you send them back, they’ll  keep on coming.

Because that’s what America is to them, the golden door.

They are the tired and the poor.

They are the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

They are the wretched refuse of distant teeming shores.

They are the homeless and tempest tossed.

This isn’t an immigration crisis, it’s a humanitarian crisis.

And there is nothing you can do to stop them, short of genocide, short of killing them all. Short of making America into a land so terrible, so horrible, so repulsive, that even those utterly without hope wouldn’t want to come here.


Or, we could do it another way.

They’re calling this Obama’s Katrina, but Hurricane Katrina didn’t have to play out the way it did. We can learn from our mistakes. We could have rallied as a nation, we Americans, we have it within us to be magnificent, but in our petty selfishness we have lost our union and the sense that we are greater together than apart. All of us.

Hate and fear and rage and selfishness do not have to carry the day.

We do not have to become a fortress nation self-imprisoned behind minefields and barbed wire and machine guns.

We can be the America of that promise.

We can be a welcome shore and a beacon of liberty and freedom and hope for all.

Despite the protests of a selfish few, we are America, and we have more than enough resources, far more than we ourselves need – we throw away enough food to feed millions! We can welcome these children, we can give them refuge, we can feed them and heal them and educate them and give them a future. We can give them hope.  And, perhaps, send them back one day with our willing help to remake their own homelands into something better, something equal to the United States, into beacons of liberty and freedom and prosperity in their own right and we can put an end once and for all to the actual causes of illegal immigration and the actual things that caused this humanitarian crisis.

If we truly are the people we claim to be, we would build a new Colossus, a new Statue of Liberty, a hundred times the size of the one in New York’s harbor.

And we’d stand it on our southern border with her lamp held high enough for all to see.

And she would be the very symbol of America, her flame the imprisoned lightning, and her name would be Mother of Exiles.

And from her beacon-hand would glow the world wide message:


Because that, that right there, is the promise of America.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Self Evident Truths

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

Life. Liberty. Happiness.

We hold these truths to be self evident.

Great words, great ideals, especially when you’re telling a king to stick it up his ass.

We hold these truths to be self evident.

Except for that that part, of course, where those truths weren’t self evident.

Not at all.

The men who wrote that letter to King George may have found certain inalienable rights to be self evident, but they were in the minority.  King George III certainly didn’t find those rights to be self evident, nor did his governors in the colonies, nor the nobles of the British Empire, nor did most American colonists for that matter.

It turned out that there was nothing self evident about any of it, as the Founders themselves found out once they’d won their independence and set themselves down to write the Constitution . That lack of evidence is one of the reasons the words in the Constitution are very, very different from those in the Declaration. 

Even after the Constitution was hammered out, those truths were anything but self evident. For the better part of 1787 the Framers locked themselves in the Pennsylvania State House and shouted at each other, arguing over whether or not an enumerated bill of rights should be included. George Mason and Elbridge Gerry demanded a formal list of rights, but others such as James Wilson passionately argued that incorporation of any specific rights in the Constitution was a bad idea because it directly implied that any rights not explicitly enumerated did not legally exist – inalienable though they may be.

Turns out, both sides were correct.

Two centuries later, you’ll find Americans declaring with a straight face that citizens have a God given right to carry a full military arsenal into the toy section of Target and gun down whomever they perceive to be a threat but not the right to vote or even a minimum degree of healthcare.

If rights are not specifically spelled out in the fabric of the country’s governing document, then it’s not long before some pinch-faced self-involved jackass decides those rights don’t exist, or that they apply only to a certain segment of the population. If you say “all men are created equal” when what you really meant was “all human beings regardless of sex, creed, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or lack thereof, age, ability, height, weight, dexterity, eye color, ear size, attractiveness, income bracket, military service, pacifism, reading ability, bilateral symmetry, political affiliation, taste in music, and any other bullshit category we divide people up into” then what will inevitably happen is that somebody, somewhere will argue that those rights don’t apply to people they don’t like.

And that, Folks, that right there, is just about the only self evident truth.

Ironically enough, that is also exactly what the Founding Fathers were talking about in their declaration to King George.

The Framers corrected their naiveté in fairly short order. Those today who would enshrine the Constitution as holy writ, handed down from their deity inviolate and Divine, ignore the fact that the very men who wrote the Constitution considered it a flawed and imperfect product of human endeavor right from the very beginning – and many said so, loudly.  And they not only included in the very fabric of the Constitution itself a mechanism for change and update, they themselves set about making modifications and corrections almost immediately.

The Bill of Rights is one of those changes – the first ten changes in point of fact, if you want to get technical about it.

Those Amendments addressed certain truths that weren’t self evident to all.

But it wasn’t enough.

It took a Civil War and another modification to the Constitution to force the nation to acknowledge certain rights, rights that should have been self evident  but weren’t – and apparently still aren’t to a significant fraction of the population.  Women’s Suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement, the battle for Gay Rights, these struggles exist because for far too many Americans, Americans who should damned know better by now, the truth of human rights just isn’t all that self evident.

And the fundamental problem is this: For Americans, our rights come without responsibilities.

The Founding Fathers apparently had a much higher opinion of us than we deserve.  As such they overlooked this simple self evident truth: rights must come with accountability – otherwise, for a population increasingly without reason and prone to extremism, rights become less about individualism and more a license for violent ideology and unhinged fanaticism without consequence.

And you don’t have to look very far to find proof of what I’m talking about here.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Freedom of religion was intended as exactly that, the personal freedom to believe or not without the government imposing belief, or not, upon you.  It’s as simple as that, if you believe, fine, then go believe. Go to your church, say the hosannas, sing the hymns, drink the wine, fondle the snakes (or the priests, whatever), shake, dance, and rock and roll. But the First Amendment does not give you the right to use your goddamned religion as a club to beat the rest of us about the head and shoulders. You have no right, no right at all, none, to threaten the rest of us with your God. Fuck you. You have no right, no right at all, none, to tell the rest of us who we can marry or how to manage our own reproduction or to demand equal time with science in the classroom. Freedom of religion was intended to keep your god out of my government, and my government out of your church, not so you can go around acting like a raving jackass or so that TV personalities can grow insanely rich tax free or so that corporations can make healthcare choices for their employees in the name of their CEO’s small and selfish god. If you claim that the earth is 6000 years old and you demand creationism be taught in public schools in direct conflict with everything we know about how the universe works, then before you’re allowed to damage the next generation you should have to prove your silly nonsense to the same exact level of scientific rigor we demand from any field of science. If you claim that same-sex marriage “will destroy the fabric of society” then the burden of proof is on you and you alone, you should have to prove your statement in a court of law in no uncertain terms. Freedom of religion wasn’t enumerated in the Bill of Rights so you could use it to deny everybody else their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

For far too many Americans that is exactly what Freedom of Religion has become – a club to beat others with.

Freedom of speech was intended to allow each citizen to express themselves without fear of a king lopping off their head.  But it doesn’t mean that you can go around saying any stupid-assed thing you like without consequence or without taking responsibility for your idiotic nonsense.   Freedom of speech wasn’t intended to protect you from getting punched in the nose when you say something stupid, ignorant, racist, sexist, homophobic, jingoistic, demeaning, insulting, hateful, inflammatory, or so you can just keep flogging your pet conspiracy theory over and over and over no matter how many times it’s been soundly debunked.  It’s one thing for some drooling nut with a bad comb-over to call the president a communist Muslim from Kenya, it’s another thing entirely for a sitting Congresswoman to do so over and over without consequence. 

Freedom of speech was intended to ensure individual liberty, not to tear the country apart for a political agenda or to enshrine booger-eating paranoid stupidity as some kind of virtue.

Freedom of the press was intended to ensure that the people had multiple sources of independent information about their world and an avenue of inspection into their government. The Framers weren’t so naïve as to expect unbiased truth from the press, but they intended Freedom of the Press to provide an independent check upon the excesses of government power.  Freedom of the Press was never intended to allow media moguls and pundits and corporations to become petty tyrants themselves. Freedom of the Press was intended to keep Americans informed, not so that the media could become a substitute for critical thought. Freedom of the Press was intended to give Americans food for thought not a replacement for it. Like Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press was intended to preserve the Union not tear it asunder, it was intended to preserve liberty not to destroy it under an avalanche of hate and fear and falsehoods in the name of profit and politics.

Freedom of the Press was intended to give the people a voice, not to put words into their mouths.

Freedom of Assembly was intended to allow people to gather together, in celebration, in communication, in worship, in concern, in defense, in petition, in whatever peaceable manner they choose up to and especially in criticism of government.  Freedom of Assembly wasn’t intended to allow a bunch of gun waving racists and haters to gather together and threaten to shoot down the government and snarl at their neighbors because they don’t want to pay their fair share or because they refuse to acknowledge the rights of other Americans.  We settled that, long ago, we called it the Civil War.

Freedom of Assembly was intended to facilitate direct communication between the people and their government, not so the raging mindless mob could burn our nation down and squat in the ruins.

Freedom to Petition the Government For Redress of Grievances was intended to do exactly what it says, to allow each citizen to face the government on a equal footing in court and demand legal satisfaction for violation of their rights and liberty.  Freedom to petition the government is similar to Freedom of Assembly, the difference being that Assembly is a direct form of communication and Redress is through the government itself via the Judicial Branch.  Freedom to Petition applies to business as well as individuals but it was never intended to allow business to dictate individual rights.

Freedom to Petition the Government for Redress of Grievances was intended to preserve individual liberty, not so business or the church could use the courts to force their version of morality upon the rest of us.

And there’s this:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

If there is any right – enumerated or assumed – that we Americans have perverted beyond all rational recognition, it’s this one.  If ever there was a right Americans demand free of any responsibility whatsoever, it’s this one. The right to keep and bear arms was intended so that every American could muster to the defense of the nation in time of crises, not so a bunch of dimwitted paranoid droolers with tiny brains and even smaller dicks could carry an arsenal of automatic weaponry into restaurants and the toy section of their local department store.   The right to keep and bear arms was never ever intended to allow thirty thousand Americans to die or be injured every single goddamned year in firearms related violence.  The right to keep and bear arms was not enumerated in the Constitution so that a bunch of irresponsible government hating religious nuts could go around threatening to kill the rest of us.  A nation of crazy fanatics with guns is not the price of freedom.

The right to Keep and Bear Arms was intended to secure liberty, not to make Americans afraid in their own communities.

And so it goes, from the First Amendment to the Tenth.

Two and half centuries ago Americans fought for freedom from the tyranny of a foreign king.

They fought for the rights we now take for granted, that we take as our birthright and our due as Americans without effort or responsibility or thought for the consequences of our abuse. 

As I sit here, on July 4th, 2014, it seems to me that the inalienable truths that were so obvious to our Founders are no more self evident for many Americans today than they were to the King of England 238 years ago.

It is long past time to shout down the crazies and the haters and those to whom the truth of life, liberty, and the promise of happiness for all human beings, whoever and wherever they are, is not self evident.

It is long past time for Americans to start living up to the promise of our founding.

Happy Independence Day.

Now, get to work.

In Moscow we fought for an inch of freedom! Here you take it and pour shit all over it.
  - Vladimir Ivanoff, Moscow on the Hudson, Columbia Pictures 1984