Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ass Backward Into The Unknown


But how the world turns. One day, cock of the walk. Next, a feather duster.
- Aunty Entity, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, 1985


There’s this scene in the last Mad Max movie.

You know the flick, right? Two men enter, one man leaves.

Mel Gibson made the movie during the height of his popularity, back when he was handsome cheerful roguish Mel Gibson and not the miserable Jew-hating drunken misogynist Mel Gibson we all know him as today – and, boy, if you read me on a regular basis you’ve just got to figure that’s some serious foreshadowing right there, don’t you?

Beyond Thunderdome is arguably the last and least installment of the post apocalyptic trilogy, but there are still some great moments in the movie.

The defining scene comes near the end.  Max has bested the monstrous Blaster in the movie’s eponymous dome and, along with his trusty band of orphans, misfits, and criminals, blows up Bartertown’s power plant in a spectacular blast of fart gas and flaming pig shit along with any hope for the recovering civilization. He kidnaps the diminutive brains of the operation for his own selfish reasons and crashes out of the city in a steampunk locomotive while fighting off leather-clad crossbow wielding gladiators.  They’re rolling full speed down the tracks into the desolate radioactive wasteland pursued by an enraged army on jet-powered Baja buggies and led by Tina Turner in a chainmail miniskirt. 

Max takes a long look back at the pursuing horde.

Then he carefully climbs along the outside of the train to the cab where a guy with the charming moniker of “Pigkiller” is in the driver’s seat.

Max, yelling over the roar of the slipstream and the growling engine, asks, “So, what’s the plan?”

Pigkiller grins from ear to ear and bursts out in a loud guffaw.

Plan?” Pigkiller barks incredulously. “There ain’t no plan!


I imagine right about now that exact scene is playing out over and over in GOP circles.


The election train is barreling down the tracks headed for November. There’s Mad Paul Ryan, he was a cop once, come to save the day, the road warrior, but now he’s grown mean and sallow faced, tormented by his demons, consumed by revenge. There’s the cranky midget, McBlaster, angrily shaking his pudgy little fist and grumpily shouting, “Who run Bartertown? Who run Bartertown?!” (Except in John McCain’s case, it’s not a rhetorical question, he really has no idea what the hell is going on).  Chris Christie is the massive child-like ham-fisted mutant in leather cod piece, he’s not much on brains but he loves nothing better than squeezing the life out of his foes. Lurking in the background is Karl Rove as The Collector, he’s never going to be mayor of Bartertown, he just likes to fondle everybody’s junk.  Marco Rubio as Dr. Dealgood, Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, dying time’s here he he he! And the man without a plan, Rand Pigkiller Paul.

All looking over their collective shoulders in terror at Aunty Hillary in a chainmail pantsuit, coming up fast.

Republicans are headed into 2016 the same way they went into Iraq and Afghanistan: ass backward into the unknown and no idea what the hell they’re going to do if they win.

Their election strategy, hell their plan for the country should they win the Senate and maybe even the White House in 2016, is based almost entirely on “We hates Obama, Precious, we hates him!” while gleefully rubbing their hands together and cackling maniacally – other than that they’ve got nothing.

Going into this election, the GOP has no new ideas at all, none. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

In point of fact, their primary message has been about rolling back the clock instead of going forward into the future.

For the last five years, the GOP has done nothing but pound the Obamacare drum. In the House they’ve voted more than 50 times to repeal the law, knowing they had no chance.  Some conservatives have gone so far as to demand impeachment of the President over the Affordable Care Act, again knowing they have no chance of actually removing the president from office (and really, who knew republicans loved Joe Biden so much?).  For years, we’ve heard how the ACA was going to destroy America, how it’s the worst thing that ever happened to freedom in the history of mankind. 

Once upon a time, access to healthcare was an American issue. But once Hillary Clinton started talking about it back when she was First Lady, well, sir, that’s when conservatives suddenly remembered how Hitler probably gave everybody healthcare just before he exploded Europe and Republicans have been whipping the Nazi pony in a hysterical froth ever since – and whatever happened to those death panels anyway? Where’s Obama keeping those? And has he offed Palin’s lopsided kid yet?


In 2012, apparently oblivious to the staggering irony of it all, Republicans actually ran against Obama with the very guy who came up with the genesis of the Affordable Care Act in the first place, Mitt Romney.  I suppose that you’ve got to admire that kind of chutzpah.

For the last five years John Boehner’s Twitter feed has burped out a dozen anti-Obamacare tweets every single day …

… right up until about two weeks ago, when less than three months out from the election, all of a sudden republicans have mysteriously gone dark on Obamacare (well, except for Ted Cruz, but then that figures, doesn’t it?).

And why is that, do you suppose?

Oh, c’mon, take a guess. It’s no great mystery.

Okay, fine, I’ll give it to you. It’s because Obamacare is working, that’s why.  Even Bloomberg says so,

Republicans seeking to unseat the U.S. Senate incumbent in North Carolina have cut in half the portion of their top issue ads citing Obamacare, a sign that the party’s favorite attack against Democrats is losing its punch.

The shift — also taking place in competitive states such as Arkansas and Louisiana — shows Republicans are easing off their strategy of criticizing Democrats over the Affordable Care Act now that many Americans are benefiting from the law and the measure is unlikely to be repealed.

Now look, don’t get me wrong here: Obamacare is a piece of shit.

It’s too complicated. It costs too much. It doesn’t cover everybody. It doesn’t fix some significant problems. It makes certain aspects of healthcare worse.  Even the most liberal of liberals are unlikely to argue with you about that.  Hell, I doubt Obama would argue with you about that.  But it could have been much better. It could have been much much better, we could have done it right, if republicans had actually gotten involved and helped with its original draft. 

And it could have been drastically improved in the years since its implementation if conservatives had actually worked with the president instead of calling him a Nazi and acting like spoiled rotten children.  If they had actually had a goddamned plan other than to oppose the president at every turn simply because they can’t think of anything better to do.

The United States is a wealthy nation. We boast that we’re the world’s only superpower.  We call ourselves exceptional.  And yet a significant fraction of our population doesn’t have access to basic healthcare. 

We Americans actually argue over whether or not access to healthcare is a basic human right.  Guns, in America owning a gun is a right, but not the ability to see a doctor. 

That’s some seriously fucked up logic right there, folks.

Honestly, if the same number of Americans didn’t have access to indoor plumbing or electricity, we’d damned well do something about it (and we did).  Hell even Joseph Stalin tried to extend electricity and indoor toilets to every Soviet proletarian. But healthcare? Soviets got healthcare too, massively shitty healthcare to be sure, but even shitty Soviet healthcare is better than the republican plan at this point.  And, really, you’re telling me that America, America, can’t do better than the Soviet Union? Are you kidding me?

Honestly, if Obama came out in favor of electricity and running water republicans would squat in the dark, shit on their own shoes, and call it liberty.

Folks, obstruction for the sake of obstruction isn’t a plan.

Intractability out of spite isn’t a goddamned plan.

And you’ll note that even after five years republicans still haven’t presented a healthcare law of their own – well, other than Romneycare, I mean.

The only option republicans offer is a return to the past:  40 million uninsured Americans.

And suddenly, that doesn’t look so good, even to them. Even John Boehner’s pet intern stopped tweeting about it – obviously so. And that’s pretty damned significant given that the snotty sophomoric sock puppet who runs Boehner’s account has been unable to tweet about anything else for the last year.

So where does that leave them?

I mean, that was the whole deal. Republicans staked everything on the idea that Obamacare would implode, but now that it’s working, at least in general terms, they don’t know what to do.

And that, that right there, is the modern Republican Party’s trademark, flaming pig shit and no goddamned plan. Ass backward into the unknown. Obamacare is Iraq all over again.  Republicans sent us in and they never, obviously never, expected us to actually win.  Certainly not so soon.  Because they had no plan, absolutely no plan whatsoever, for winning. 

We made it to Baghdad in less than a month, Saddam Hussein’s regime collapsed like wet paper, and we were all cheering and throwing our hats up in the air … until it went sideways when it became apparent that nobody, no goddamned body, in the Bush Administration had even the slightest idea of what to do next.

This morning, in a mind boggling display of utterly clueless irony, John Boehner tweeted:


Leaving aside the fact that Boehner apparently tweets from an iPhone, the preferred communications device of liberals everywhere, he’s kidding right? 

Republicans had eleven years to come up with a coherent workable plan for Iraq. Where is it?

Plan? There ain’t no plan!

And now Boehner’s bitching because Obama hasn’t crapped out a counter-ISIS strategy in what? A month?

They excel at picking a fight, these modern republicans. They love to fling the pig shit and light their farts on fire. Benghazi. The IRS. Birth Certificates. Death panels. But it’s all, all of it, every damned bit of it, nothing but yellow cake uranium. 

Hell, the smoking gun, Benghazi, even after a dozen republican led witch hunts backed by every asset Congress could bring to bear, even the most intractable of House conservatives have to admit that there’s just nothing there.  And you notice they’ve stopped talking about that too.

Immigration? Again, they’re great at blaming Obama, but where is the republican plan?

They don’t have an immigration plan. And now they’re threatening to shut down the government again if Obama takes any action via executive authority (while perversely demanding that Obama do something). Shutdown the government. Again. Blow up the power plant, cover us all in flaming pig shit. I mean, really that’s all you’ve got? Shut down the government? You can’t come up with any other plan? You know, like maybe IMMIGRATION REFORM?

No. Just shut down the government.

These idiots learned nothing the last time around. Nothing.

Folks, Boehner couldn’t even get House republicans to agree to something they all basically agree on.

And that should tell you everything you need to know.  These people can’t even agree with each other even when they all agree with each other. 

They’ve had five years to come up with a plan for America’s future and it’s not that they haven’t, it’s that they can’t

The last republican with any vision was Reagan 30 years ago. And his spiritual descendants have turned his shining city on a hill into a grim fortress surrounded by a moat filled with scummy stinking stagnant water.

The only vision republicans have nowadays is hindsight. The only plan is to go backward.

Rick Perry’s been indicted and, really, what’s the campaign slogan going to be? Better the crook you know, than one you don’t! Nixon Perry, 2016!

Jeb Bush? Because America hasn’t had enough of the Bush family, right?

Mitch McConnell was recently recorded at a Koch Brothers Donor summit, openly admitting the republican party works for the rich and for corporations – and not the people they’re supposed to be representing.  If these people get their way, America would return to the days of the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers and you and I would get to pay them for the privilege of eating out of their garbage cans.  These are the corporate people who, like the recently announced Burger King/Horton’s merger, demand all the benefits of the United States as their rightful hereditary due, they want America’s freedom, her economic opportunities, her protection, her law, her military might, her prestige, her investment climate, and most of all her subsidies, but they don’t want to pay for it.  These people are the ultimate freeloaders, they don’t create jobs for Americans, they create jobs for everybody in the Third World. They don’t create wealth for Americans, these greedy fuckers create unlimited wealth for themselves and sit on their piles of gold like Smaug the Dragon – gloating while millions go sick and hungry and homeless.  But, boy, they sure pride themselves on their Christianity, don’t they?

John McCain demands that we return to war.  That’s his solution for everything. Bomb ‘em! Bomb ‘em all!  Forty years later and he’s still pursuing the same losing strategy of Vietnam. Two men enter, one man leaves! Bomb ‘em! There just aren’t enough bodies for John McCain and he wasted no time last Sunday, the wine bottles were still falling in Napa Valley, when Johnny Walnuts used the early morning quake to blame Obama for the fact that republicans had no plan for Iraq after the invasion.

"The president has to understand that America must lead and, when American hasn't, a lot of bad things happen! This is not like the earthquake in San Francisco. All of this could have been avoided, like leaving a residual force behind in Iraq, and obviously the challenge is now much greater than it would have been."

So, it’s America’s fault that bad things happen? Or just Obama’s?

It all could have been avoided, this new outbreak of violence in Iraq, if only Obama had kept us in Iraq forever, right? Yeah, except for that part where we could have avoided it all together if we hadn’t invaded in the first damned place. Or that part where Congress and George W. Bush set the timeline for our withdrawal from Iraq.  Or except for that part where nobody, especially supposed fiscally conservative republicans, wanted to pay for leaving such a force behind and rebuilding Iraq. Yeah, except for that, McBlaster was right on the money, as usual.

John McCain knows it, he was there when they voted for war and when they settled on the schedule and the budget. We couldn’t leave a residual force in Iraq, not without subjecting American soldiers to Iraqi law – the very Sharia law conservatives like McWalnuts fear so much.  The same “law” that just cost another American his head.  Our options were to pull out the troops according to the agreed upon schedule or subject them to Islamic law and Iraqi justice or … topple the Iraqi government again and start over. And that’s McCain’s plan. Do over. Go back to 1961 and invade Vietnam 2003 and invade Iraq again.  He doesn’t have any new ideas, just a rerun of the last 40 years and another 5000 American lives.

I’ll tell you, for a guy who doesn’t think much of liberals, John McCain sure seems determined to keep repeating Lyndon Johnson’s Southeast Asia strategy over and over like some blood soaked version of Groundhog Day.

At this point, you’ve got to wonder how long it’ll be before he starts quoting McNamara.

Meanwhile, Rand Paul wants to throw out the Civil Rights Act.

That’s Rand’s plan. That’s how he wants to fix America. Let businesses discriminate if they want to. Let the free market fix it, because capitalism was so, so very successful at ending apartheid without laws and regulations. Sure, get rid of the Civil Rights Act, let’s do that. Good idea. That’ll bring minorities to the Republican Party. Righto, Rand, good plan.

Paul hasn’t exactly been shy about saying so and neither has his father. 

As further evidence that Republicans have no plan and whose election year unity resembles a barnyard of panicked poultry, Sunday morning while John McCain was raging and rattling the bars of his bamboo cage, Paul was on Meet the Press warning people that Hillary Clinton is some kind of “war hawk” who’ll get us into another war.


No, I am not in point of fact shitting you.

If you want to see a transformational election in our country, let the Democrats put forward a war hawk like Hillary Clinton and you’ll see a transformation like you’ve never seen. People are going to find that, and I think that's what scares the Democrats the most, is that in a general election, were I to run, there's gonna be a lot of independents and even some Democrats who say, 'You know what? We are tired of war. We're worried that Hillary Clinton will get us involved in another Middle Eastern war, because she's so gung-ho.’

John McCain: Conservatives demand mowr waaaaar in the Middle East!

Rand Paul: Oh noes! Liberal Hillary Clinton will get us into another war in the Middle East!

Hillary Clinton is too gung-ho. Americans are tired of liberals getting us into Middle Eastern wars.

Rand, meet Senator Walnuts. John, Rand. You guys belong to the same bromance, right? It’s like you’re so in sync you finish each other’s sentences.


I’ll just pause for a moment here so you can admire the united front that is the Republican Party two months out from the midterm elections.


At this point the only thing republicans have in common is their hatred of Obama.

That’s their whole damned plan, we hate Obama. That’s it. That’s the whole thing.

They’ve got nothing else.

Case in point, there’s movement afoot in conservatives circles to encourage Mitt Romney to run for president against (assumed) Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Mitt Romney.


I’ll just pause for a moment so you can amuse yourself with that idea.


Mitt Romney, folks. Again.

The one goddamned republican who you know for sure can’t get himself elected to the White House (Okay, two, John McCain, you got me, but since republicans no longer believe in math just go with me on this one). Romney, that’s the guy they’re thinking about running against Hillary Clinton

Mitt Romney.

Against Hillary Clinton. 

Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) told MSNBC,

I think he’s [Romney] proven right on a lot of stuff. I happen to be in the camp that thinks he’s actually going to run and I think he will be the next President of the United States.

There’s a Facebook group Mitt Romney for President 2016, they’ve only got 4,600 “likes” so far but that’s more than I would have guessed – unless those are Democrats. Hmmm. 

The Week says Mitt Romney is the clear republican frontrunner for 2016.

Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, and Paul Ryan are all onboard the Draft Mitt campaign.

Ryan thinks it would be a good idea for Romney to run again because, and I quote, “Third time’s the charm.”


Mitt Romney.

Against Hillary Clinton.

Shit, she won’t even have to put on the chainmail to beat that raggedy man.


I’ll just pause for a minute so you can contemplate Hillary Clinton in a chainmail miniskirt. You’re welcome.


The GOP is old and tired and bitter.  They’re plumb fresh out of any new ideas and they’ve got no plan whatsoever. It’s just the same old obsessions, abortion, gays, guns, and Jesus. Bomb ‘em, bomb ‘em all!

They can’t even agree among themselves on the things they all agree on.

Now, you tell me, how are they going to run the country?

Look, I’m not saying the Democrats are great, but at least they’re going forward. Inch at a time and uphill all the way, kicking and clawing and howling at the moon – and that sure beats retreat any day of the week.

Here’s the thing, so pay attention: If the republicans take the Senate in two months and/or the White House in two years, it won’t be because of their innovative comprehensive plan for rebuilding America or their infectious enthusiasm.

No, it won’t. Obviously. Because they have neither.

It’ll be because democrats are too goddamned lazy to get off their asses and do something about it.

If you can’t win against these dour disorganized pessimists, then you don’t deserve to be in charge.

Give that some thought, won’t you?


Remember: no matter where you go, there you are!
- Pigkiller


Addendum: A note about my use of the word “lopsided,” in reference to Palin’s child.

Look at the sentence in context.

The entire point of Palin's Death Panel bullshit, the entirety of it, was because she openly accused President Obama (and by extension all liberals) of engaging in Nazi-style eugenics. Her allegation was that Obama would bring the mentally challenged, the old, the infirm, and specifically her Down Syndrome son, before a government panel to be judged and (presumably) condemned to die. 

Death Panels. She accused us of being fucking Nazis, she was quite specific about it.

Yes, I used the word lopsided.  I didn't use "inferior," "deficient," "defective," "retarded," "Mongoloid," "special," "handicapped," or any other demeaning or outdated euphemism.  I would also point out that I didn't call him a goddamned Nazi. I used a non-threatening word with no attached social baggage. I did it on purpose to identify the child Palin herself made a political token by holding him up as different and less than her other children – and that’s exactly what she did, she didn’t say liberals were going to off Willow or Bristol or Tyvek or Snowshoe or whatever the rest of her kids are called.

I didn't bring Palin's kid into this, Palin did. Loudly. Repeatedly. She used that child as a political token, and she did it  specifically because of his developmental condition. She assumed special authority because of her child. She made a specific point of it. So where is it? Where are those death panels? Where are they? She said we'd kill her kid, she said the Government would kill her kid, she said liberals would kill her kid specifically because he is mentally challenged and we are baby murdering Nazis.

So why is he still alive? Well?

Guess what, I didn’t kill her kid. Liberals didn’t kill her kid. Obama didn’t kill her kid. Obamacare didn’t kill her kid.  So far as I know, he’s doing just fine. Last time I saw him in public, he was cute as a button. I don’t think he’s lopsided, she does.

But here’s the thing, kids are dying.  Because they don’t have access to fucking healthcare, because spiteful insane selfish assholes like Sarah Palin don’t think they deserve it.

If Sarah Palin doesn't want me using her goddamned kid to make a political point, she shouldn't have brought him to the fight and hauled him up as different in front of the nation.

And she shouldn't have called me a fucking Nazi.

Lopsided is a hell of a lot more polite than calling the rest of us baby murdering fascists.

And unlike her, I own what I say.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pressure Cooker

Can we all get along?
- Rodney King, 1992 Los Angeles riots


I don’t like being cynical.

Especially about the United States of America.

I’m not particularly good at that kind of pessimism, because I’m generally an optimist when it comes to my country.

And I’d like to say I’m surprised.

I’d like to say that I’m shocked.

I’d like to say that I’m surprised and shocked at the violence and the rage in Ferguson, Missouri.

But I’m not.

Of course I’m not.

I’m not surprised or shocked in any way whatsoever.

And I doubt you are either.

Oh we’re appalled, sure. Some of us are disgusted with the behavior of the rioters and the looters and the protesters.  And some of us are disgusted with the behavior of the police and the various governments.  Like Israel and Gaza, we’ve all got our usual suspects to blame for the conflict, our side to root for and cheer on. But still, whatever side we’re on, we’re all disturbed by the images on our screens.

But we’re not surprised. Are we?

And, you know, that’s the worst part, isn’t it? That, right there. None of us are shocked or surprised. No. This is exactly what we expect in America.

We’re used to it.

I’d like to say I’m outraged, and I am to a certain extent, but not nearly as much as I should be, because the violence, on both sides of the street, cops and protesters, is the norm and not the exception. 

I’d have been surprised if it didn’t happen.

This is part and parcel of The Big Lie we Americans tell ourselves. That one about our vaunted exceptionalism.  Heh, heh, exceptionalism. Riiiiight. Exceptionalism isn’t even a real word, but then that’s par for the course. Tell me, America, what’s so damned exceptional about fearing the police? About living in fear of authority? What’s exceptional about armed troops in the streets? About armored vehicles and automatic weapons on the corners, in the playgrounds, guarding the schools and the store and the police stations? About blockades and showing your papers? What’s exceptional about being shot down without trial or due process? What exactly is exceptional about dead kids in the street? What’s exceptional about tear gas and rubber bullets – or lead ones for that matter? But then what’s so exceptional about an armed population? About citizens who solve their differences with pistols and assault weapons? What’s exceptional about racism and inequality and disparity and naked hate? What’s exceptional about crime and riot? What’s exceptional about the arrest and detainment of journalists and reporters? What’s exceptional about political division that verges on civil war? These things are all too common around the world.

Come now, tell me, America. 

Compare the images from Ferguson, Missouri to Gaza, to Moscow, to Tiananmen Square, to Brazil, to any of a hundred supposedly inferior Third World places we see on our TVs every single day and tell me again about our great American exceptionalism.

If you want to be exceptional, America, then you have to be the exception.  Q.E.D.

The events of Ferguson, Missouri over the last week are the norm in America.

And there is nothing particularly new about any of it. From the Whiskey Rebellion to Ferguson, this is how we so often do business in America. Shoot first, ask questions later, let God sort it out.

The violence in Ferguson is the natural consequence of short sighted policies enacted out of fear, out of reflex and political laziness and a lack of national will. It exists because we are too damned lazy to do anything about it except wring our hands and blame somebody else.

The violence in Ferguson is a direct result of our exceptional inability to face the real problems and deal with them as a mature nation, as a civilized society, and as a reasonable people.

Both the initial confrontation and the resulting violence, those things really aren’t surprising in America at all. They happen all of the time. The media is daily full of similar events. We’ve watched this same scene play out over and over.  Dead kids. Riots. Looting. Burning buildings. Clouds of gas. Police intimidating and almost machinelike in military gear. Enraged citizens. Bloviating politicians. Posturing pundits. A media more interested in manufacturing news than in reporting it. And, of course, as always, a dimwitted easily led American population dutifully lining up on either side each according to political affiliation like good little clockwork automatons, short on facts, long a rumor and rhetoric, shrieking and manically shaking their fists at each other.

Here’s what will happen in Ferguson: Eventually a handful of rioters will be prosecuted and found guilty of property damage or public disorder or some other equally convenient charge. Soon thereafter the police will be exonerated of any wrong doing, though the chief will talk about how they could maybe do things better and how they’re gonna hire themselves more police of color, because, heh heh, you know.  Violence will erupt again, briefly, when it becomes apparent, again, that there really is no justice to be had despite all the promises. But this time the police will be ready and it’ll all peter out into sullen rage and renewed cynical resentment. 

The lessons will be reinforced: Black and white, Right and Left, Rich and Poor, and Fuck the Police.

By then, of course, America will have long forgotten about Ferguson, Missouri.

And we will go on as before.

And the problems that cause this will remain. Unaddressed. Unsolved.

My cynicism and the violence in Ferguson, they’re both symptoms of a much larger problem. A problem that’s been simmering and bubbling for decades – hell, centuries – and every once in a while it boils over. We get scalded, sure, and it’s terrible, and we all scream, why? Why doesn’t somebody do something?  Why can’t we all just get along?

But we never turn down the heat. We never fix the real problem.

We just put the lid back on and hope it’ll be different next time.

Then we forget about it.

Until the pressure cooker explodes in our face yet again.

Last Saturday, a unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot dead by a white police officer.  The shooting occurred around noon in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, as Brown and a friend walked down a street.

That part is not in dispute.

But nearly every other detail of the event is.

Police say that Brown was shot during a struggle with the arresting officer when he tried to grab the cop’s gun.

Other reports say Brown was killed while kneeling in the street with his hands up.

Of course there’s no video of the event. We’ve got a billion gigabytes of cats and boobs and rednecks doing stupid shit with guns, but somehow the important stuff never gets recorded, does it? All we have is the cop’s word. And the conflicting words of supposed witnesses. Brown, conveniently, isn’t around to defend himself.

Barring the ability to travel through time, we’ll never really know what happened. Not really. Not indisputably. We’ll each believe what we want to believe, whatever best suits our own viewpoint and perception.

But, ultimately, what it comes down to is that an unarmed black teenager was shot dead by a white cop. Again.

As I said up above, there’s nothing exceptional about this scenario. In America, it happens all too often.

At its core, this is about racism – both the individual and the institutionalized kind.

Yes, it's about race. Yes it is. That is the very crux of the matter.

And don’t try to pretend that it’s not.  Race and how we view race in America from our various perspectives always shapes how we perceive incidents like this.  Everything, the inevitable violence, the mollifying empty promises, the gravid media analysis, the openly racist comments, the subtly racist comments, the contemptuous dismissal of the race issue, everything that always follows this kind of event depends from this basic fact: In America it’s always about race.

Ignoring that fact or pretending that it’s not so in order to avoid dealing with it is precisely why it continues day in and day out.




When the police refer to the black population as “animals,” on record, to a reporter, it’s about race.

When the population is predominately black and the police force is predominately white, it’s about race.

When the dialog focuses on the dead teenager’s appearance, his clothing, his friends, his school record, his family, his habits and haunts and hangouts, when the media publically debates whether he was a “good son” or a “thug,” it’s about race.

When the media openly speculates about the victim’s possible drug use or criminal history, it’s about race.

When your perception of the dead teen’s guilt or innocence is determined by which political party you belong to or which political pundit you listen to, it’s about race.

When you attempt to justify the death of a black teenager because other black people smashed windows and lit shit on fire in protest, it’s about race. 

When you attempt to dismiss another dead black teenager at the hands of the police by quoting statistics about “black on black” crime, it’s about race.

When you’re more outraged about the unconstitutional arrest and intimidation of white reporters than you are about the unconstitutional shooting of a black teenager, it’s about race.

When you’re more concerned about the militarization of white police than you are about the fact that those same police gunned down a black teenager for no apparent reason other than he happened to be walking down a public street while black, just like any of a hundred other black teenagers gunned down by those in authority, it’s about race. 

When you suggest with a knowingly raised eyebrow that a black teenager ought to be smart enough to immediately submit to police authority without any trace of resentment or risk summary execution, but you think a bunch of white ranchers are patriots for defying the government and pointing assault rifles at federal agents, it’s about race.

When those things, all of those things, are what determines in the court of public opinion whether or not the dead kid deserved what he got or whether he was a victim, well, folks, then it’s about race.

When a white cop shoots dead an unarmed black teenager, it’s about race.

In America, it’s always about race.




Where were the up-armored police forces when it was the Bundy Ranch? Where was the tear gas? Where were the journalists being dragged away in handcuffs while police confiscated their cameras?

And the real question is where were the bodies of those who refused to submit to lawful authority?

That’s what I asked on Twitter.

The responses were … educational.

Take Dante DaDemonkiller for example:


Ah, paramilitary white secessionists of the  Bundy Ranch, armed and organized (heh heh) are good then, right?

I have to wonder what Mr. Demonkiller and those of his Libertarian persuasion would say if Black Panthers, organized and armed with assault weapons, had shown up in Ferguson to defend the black population from white police officers?

Visualize it, visualize your TV screen full of angry defiant black men in paramilitary clothing coming from across the nation, carrying assault rifles, standing shoulder to shoulder in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, facing down the police. Go on, picture it.  What do you see? Patriots? Do you see patriots? Is that what you see?

Don’t make me laugh.

Oh certainly, I’m speculating here. Perhaps Dante the Demonkiller would cheer when Nation of Islam soldiers took up arms against the government of Ferguson.

But I suspect not.

Tell me it’s not about race, go ahead, I’ll try to keep a straight face.




Why do I compare the two events?

Why do I invite division?

Oh yeah, it’s me. I’m the one.

It’s not the fact that once again police shot down an unarmed black teenager.  Noooooo, that’s not it.

It’s me, I’m the one inviting division by asking why it’s okay for white militia to come from across America and point guns at the government without so much as one single arrest, but an unarmed black kid can’t walk down street in his own neighborhood without risking a death sentence?

Yeah, it’s me.

If you think questioning the status quo is what causes division, there’s nothing much I can say to you.

The events in Ferguson are, to some extent, about the line where rightful protest becomes wrongful riot.

But what gets lost in that discussion is why the protest began in the first place – and the riot, for that matter.  When people feel they’ve been treated poorly, when they have no hope of anything better, when their very lives and the lives of those they love can be taken without consequence, then they tend to fight back via any means available.  Yes, black people riot in America, true, and so do white people and yellow people and red people and it turns out that violent riot isn’t the exclusive domain of any one race.  If you think it is, if you think white people smashing windows and beating the shit out of each other after a sporting event is just “boys being boys” but black people reacting in rage on the streets of Ferguson is how “animals” behave, well, folks, as I said, all you’re doing is proving me right.

Riot is wrong. It’s criminal and illegal and dangerous, counter-productive, and worse, it distracts from the real issues. But here in America, what distinguishes riot from protest is very, very different depending on race, affluence, neighborhood, and political affiliation.

Much of the hand-wringing during this last week is over militarization of America's police force.

Yes, our police forces are growing increasingly mechanized and more heavily armed.

Social media and the news are rife with discussions about government programs to distribute surplus military equipment to police departments. Our screens are saturated with pictures of cops, insectile and menacing in military style armor, scowling impassively at the camera from behind the gaping muzzles of their heavy weapons. 

But what’s missing here is the counterbalance.

While it’s true that our police forces have up-armored, so has the civilian population.

We’re armed to the fucking teeth, we Americans.

Or did you miss those Tea Party rallies, the gun shows, all those militias, or those pictures from the Bundy Ranch? And the gangs and the criminals toting semi-auto armor piecing weaponry.  Guns fill our stores, our homes, and our streets and a loud vocal well funded fraction of Americans wants more guns, more more more.

And what? You think cops should face that armed populace with their trusty old .38s and a smile? C’mon.

This is nothing new. Back in the 1870’s following the Civil War, former soldiers, some Union but many former Confederates, terrorized the West using surplus military equipment and tactics.  You’ve maybe heard of the James Gang, right? The Youngers? The Daltons? The Wild Bunch? Eventually the various police forces and private security companies used military tactics to hunt those criminals down and restore order. In the  1930s, during the heyday of Prohibition, gangsters roamed the streets of America, robbing banks and blazing away with Tommy Guns.  You’ve heard of this, right? Seen the movies maybe? Sure, Ma Barker, Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly. And again, eventually the G-Men got themselves some Thompson submachine guns of their own. And armored cars. And surplus war equipment. And they set up road blocks and id checks and tapped phones.  After World War II the same thing happened. And after Vietnam. And here we are.

So, yes, we’re giving surplus military equipment to local police forces. Of course we are. Because otherwise we have to leave it in Iraq or Afghanistan. Or we could let that equipment rust on military bases across the nation because we don’t have the funding or forces to maintain it, or we could dump it over the side of the transport ships into the sea like we did coming home from Vietnam. 

Those MRAPs and armored vehicles cost us, you and me, a very large fortune – and that’s a bill we and our children are going to be paying on for a very long time.  Those machines were designed for a specific role in a particular conflict and they came too late to be of much use. So what the hell do we do with them? We do what we always do, we hand them out in some forlorn hope of recouping maybe just a bit of the massive cost of war.  This is nothing new. Our national guard armories are full of WWII field pieces, and Korean war jeeps, and Vietnam era helicopters. 

And so the national guard and the police find themselves with obsolete armored trucks that are in large part prohibitively expensive to operate and not really very useful for much of anything other than starting conspiracy theories.

The body armor and the assault rifles? Well, hell, folks when you’re facing militia in body armor and armed with assault rifles, what the fuck do you expect?  That’s what happens with escalation, one side up-armors, so the other side up-armors, so the first side up-armors more, which means the other side has … well, you get the idea. 

Which, inevitably leads to the “well, yeah, but see, the [citizens/government] started it! We’ve got to react, man, got to! We can’t let the [citizens/government] get the upper hand! Fascists! Nazis! Mobs! Revolution! Blah blah blah, round and round, in a perfect case of the self-licking ice cream cone.


Does that mean that we shouldn’t be discussing the limits of law enforcement and its role in our communities? No, of course not. Obviously we need to talk about it, and take action, and watch closely. Of course. But that isn’t the point here and that discussion is part of the larger conversation we should be having.

There’s no damned point in patching up law enforcement if the laws and the society they support aren’t just and equal to begin with.

[end edit]

And now we’ve drifted far, far from the real issue.

The violence in Ferguson, and in Sanford, and Los Angeles, and Watts, and Selma, wasn’t caused by militarization of the police force. That was most certainly a contributing factor, but it’s not the cause.

The violence in Ferguson wasn’t caused by the current occupant of the White House, or the previous one for that matter. Nor was it caused by illegal immigrants, or Benghazi, or the IRS, or NSA, or 911, or UFOs. 

The violence in Ferguson sure wasn’t sparked by the arrest of white reporters. It wasn’t caused by the media or the pundits or social media, though all of those things certainly fanned the flames.

The violence in Ferguson wasn’t caused by liberals. It wasn’t caused by conservatives. It wasn’t caused by republicans or democrats or the goddamned Nazis.

It wasn’t caused by any of those things. Those things are side effects.

Allowing ourselves to be distracted by side effects blinds us to the real causes and therefore to actual solutions.

The violence in Ferguson, Missouri is about race. 

Everything that’s happened begins from that simple point.

And until we deal with that, that right there and all the myriad complex problems that depend from it, the centuries of social inequality, the lack of justice, the us and them mentality, the poverty, the drugs, the guns, the politics, the lost potential and opportunity, and especially the rage, until we face that head on and actually do something about it in a fair and reasoned manner, then scenes like Ferguson will continue to play out on the evening news.

I don’t like being cynical.

Especially about the United States of America.

I think we’re better than this.

I think we can be exceptional.

But I’m not holding my breath at this point.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

America: You’re Still Using That Word

Lady, I only speak two languages: English and bad English.
- Korben Dallas, The Fifth Element, 1997


What is it that makes an American?

What is the defining element?

What special quality makes one an American?  

If you line up a bunch of random people, how do you know which ones are Americans and which ones aren’t? 

No really. How do you know?

Oh sure, when I lived in Europe and Asia, you could always, always, spot an American in the crowd. They were the ones with the giant cowboy hats shouting, “What’s wrong with you assholes? Don’t any of you speak English?” But if you put a bunch of people side by side, naked and silent say, how do you know which ones are the Americans? Do we have some kind of magical glow? A special tattoo? Oversized sexual organs that light up and play the Star Spangled Banner?

Is American like a soul? Something you can’t see, or touch, or quantify, or measure … but nonetheless some people insist exists despite no supporting evidence whatsoever?

How do you know?

What is it?

What is it that makes one an American?

I mean, it must be something, right? There must be something that makes us Americans different, better and more awesome, than everybody else, right?

There must be.

Our representatives certainly think so.

Early this week two so-called “DREAMers” confronted Representative Steve King (R-IA) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) at a diner in Iowa

The DREAMers, a term used to identify certain illegal aliens who were brought to the United States as children and grew up here, were activists Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas.  They wanted to talk to the lawmakers about immigration reform.

Now, look, we’re talking about members of the US Congress. These are educated men, right? King went to Northwest Missouri State University, he majored in math – he didn’t graduate, he doesn’t have a degree, but still. Math. He built King Construction company and founded the Kiron Business Association.  He’s been in the House since 2003, that’s over a decade for those of you who aren’t good at math. And Paul? This guy is a doctor, he graduated from Baylor and Duke. These two men, they make federal laws. They work on issues that affect every American. Paul is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he’s on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, he’s on the Homeland Security committee – if anybody ought to know what constitutes the ethereal quality of “American,” it’s Rand Paul. I mean, you’d think, right?

And yet – and yet – before Andiola and Vargas approached and identified themselves as non-Americans, neither Representative Steve King nor Senator Rand Paul (nor their aides or security detail) were aware of the non-Americans’ status. 

Yes, that’s right, foreign invaders were able to walk right up to members of the US government in a public eatery and they literally had to say, Hi, we’re illegal aliens! Boogah! Boogah!

Because there was no way to tell just by looking at them.

Paul immediately got up from the table and ran away leaving his unfinished hamburger behind – apparently frightened by the terrifying threat of brown-skinned Mexican Ebola – and I’m forced to wonder at this point what the Fox News headlines would have looked like had it been the President who’d run from two Latinos:


But I digress, as is my tendency.

Steve King wasn’t so lucky, abandoned by Rand Paul and with no ready line of retreat,  the congressman was forced to heroically defend America from the invaders all by himself.

ANDIOLA: I’m actually a DREAMer. I’m originally from Mexico, but I was raised here. I graduated from Arizona State University. I know you want to get rid of DACA. And I wanted to give you the opportunity, if you really want to get rid of DACA, just rip mine. You can go ahead and do that. You take my DACA, you will literally take away everything.

KING: This is not what I do. I don’t call you names…

ANDIOLA: I mean, ‘cantaloupe calves?’

KING: That’s drug smugglers. You’re very good at English. You know what I’m saying. So you can understand the English language. You’re saying something that’s not true. I spoke of drug smugglers… Your ears work too, I was speaking of drug smugglers only.

ANDIOLA: You’re the one who’s trying to get rid of DACA.

KING: And you heard why. I told you why. The president has no constitutional authority to do what he has done.

ANDIOLA: Yes he does. [Gestures to Vargas] He’s actually an attorney, he’s a DREAMer. He graduated from law school.

KING: Oh and that makes you an authority. You keep your card. I don’t do individual policy. I do national policy for everyone. It troubles me a great deal that you have such disrespect for the laws of the United States of America. You’re telling me that you don’t have to abide by the laws.


So, what is it that makes King and Paul Americans, but not Andiola and Vargas?

Is it the ability to speak and understand the English language?

King certainly seems to think so and he made a point of saying so – in English.

So do many Americans, many who in fact want to make English the official – and only – language of the United States by force of law. 

And say, did you ever wonder why, if it’s so important and all, how come we don’t call our language American

Why is our language, the language of America, named after some European power? One we fought a war to get the hell away from in point of fact. But yet again, there I go, digressing.

Back on point, Is the ability to speak English, good English, a requirement for being an American? 

Is it?

Where’s that written down?

I mean, have you ever heard Arnold Schwarzeneggar? That guy was the conservative republican governor of Calleefornyah, people were talking about changing the Constitution so he could be President. He’s the very epitome of the cigar chewing, mini-gun wielding, alien killin’ American, but the son of a bitch can’t speak English – or American – worth a shit. 

Hell, how about Henry Kissinger?

And don’t even get me started on George W. Bush, because, damn, folks, just damn.

If the ability to speak, write, read, and comprehend English is a requirement for being American, shouldn’t we be testing every American on a regular basis? I don’t know about you, but I’d be perfectly willing to revoke the citizenship of those who can’t seem to grasp the difference between there, they’re, and their.  And don’t get me started on the comments under any Fox News article.



So, then, is it respect for the law?

Is respect for the law the thing that makes you an American?

Is it? King was troubled that the DREAMers have “such disrespect for the laws of the United States of America.”  

Interesting, that, don’t you think? Respect for the law.


I guess that would mean Cliven Bundy isn’t an American?

Now now, don’t get pissy with me, take it up with Steve King. 

Time to deport Mr. Bundy along with all those flag waving militiamen who flout federal and state firearms law.  And while we’re at it, how about all those Captains of Industry and the Wall Street traders who ignore federal banking laws every single day. They certainly don’t respect the law, not in spirit and not in practice – not unless forced to comply, exactly like an illegal alien.  And how about those companies who deliberately violate the federal clean air and clean water acts? They sure as hell don’t respect the law.  According to US Congressman Steve King that makes them un-American does it not? Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, both broke the law to such a degree that it actually changed our language, Watergate, Iran-Contra, would King say they aren’t American? And maybe it’s time to scrub our history books, Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, every single person in the Confederacy, they all scoffed at the law and I guess that means they aren’t Americans after all. 

Hell, just last week, Sarah Palin got a ticket in Wasilla, Alaska for disrespecting the local speed limit…

What’s that?

Oh, now I’m just being silly, am I?

Well, okay, but where do we draw the line? America was founded on disrespect for the law. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and all the rest who took up arms against the King? Law breakers each and every single one.

Respect for the law? That’s what makes you an American? Seriously?

Since when?

I call Shenanigans.

Is it a particular religion that makes you an American? Your God, your prophet, your church? Are those what makes you an American? Are they? After all, there are nations which use religion as one of the defining criteria for citizenship, is America one of those nations? Well? Guess we’re not so special then, are we?

Is it a skin color? Is it your race? The color of your eyes, the color of your hair? Is it genetics that makes you an American? There certainly have been nations which defined citizenship in such terms, blond haired, blue eyed, master race. Is that what America is? Come now, don’t be shy, speak up, do you have to be white to be an American, go on, you can say it. No? Hmmm, are you sure? You are? Well, well how about that?

Is it culture? Is it our way of life that makes us Americans? What culture? What way of life? East Coast? West Coast? North? South? The Midwest? Big city? Small town? Wall Street banker? Appalachian coal miner? Southern California Surfer? Texas Cowboy? Alaskan Fisherman? Rock and Roll? Bluegrass? Polka? Jazz? Rap? Pizza?  Frankfurters? Pierogis? Apple pie? Chop suey? Kielbasa?  Hamburgers? Breakfast burritos? Freedom Fries? What way of life defines America? Please, describe it in detail and be sure to cite your references in the footnotes.

Is it wealth? Do you have to be rich to be an American? Is it health? Is it a standard of living? Is it employment? Is it keeping up with the Kardasians? I mean what is it that makes us American?

The nerve of these "Dreamers". They are here illegally and have used significant resources during their illegal stay in the US […] How can this female Dreamer ever become a productive US citizen when she obviously does not understand that America lives by the rule of law […] I will never understand how any loyal, hard-working taxpaying American would support letting these economic opportunists stay in our country.
- TiredofBeingTaxedToDeath, Washington Post 8/5/20

Oh, well, is that it?

Is that it right there? 

Is loyalty the requirement? Do you have to be hard-working? Do you have to pay taxes? Do you have to be productive? And how are all those things measured? Loyalty to what exactly? To a specific political party? To a state or a sports team or your employer? Hard working? But then shouldn’t we eliminate inheritance? I mean, come on, Paris Hilton? How American is that? Shouldn’t Mitt Romney’s kids have to build their own fortunes from scratch? To be Americans, I mean? No? Well then what’s the threshold? After all, one hell of a lot of illegal immigrants work their little brown asses off at jobs no self-respecting American would do – I mean, that’s why they’re here in the first place, isn’t it? They make the burritos, they pick the tomatoes and the cabbages, they cut the grass, they babysit our kids and clean our houses, they sew the shirts, so what then qualifies as hard work? I’m talking about the kind of hard work that makes you American? Give me a list of the approved American professions. Go on, I’ll wait while you look it up.

And economic opportunists? Tell me more about that. Tell me how Americans don’t take advantage of America’s place in the world economy every single day, because I just never get tired of that story. Oh, come on, don’t be a sorehead, don’t run away like Rand Paul, tell me. What jobs, what degree of work, how much do you have to clear to be an American?

Is it patriotism? Is it blind love of country? Is it how many flags you fly and how straight you stand when they play the national anthem? Is that what makes you an American? Strange then that so many patriots, so many of those who profess to love America, seem to hate every single thing about it.  They don’t love this America, they love an America that has never been but exists only in their fevered imagination, one made up of the right people who speak the right language and worship the right god and eat the right foods and sing the right songs with their hands over their hearts.

That’s it, isn’t it? Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas, they were born somewhere else, but they grew up here same as the rest of us, they were educated here, they graduated from college here, they speak English – damned good educated American English. They love America same as us and they were willing to join the military and put their asses on the line to prove it. They didn’t break the law, their parents did. They’re no deadbeats, they work, they contribute, they dress like us, they eat the food we eat, they listen to the music we listen to and in fact there is nothing, absolutely nothing whatsoever, that would allow a member of the United States government to tell that Andiola and Vargas weren’t Americans simply by looking at them.

So what then is it?

What’s that?

Oh, you’re an American because you were born here?

Ah, I see. Being an American is an accident of birth then, is it? That’s the one indefinable quality that makes you an American, you were born here.

Is that it? Is it really?

John Paul Jones, Alexander Hamilton, Alexander Graham Bell, Joseph Pulitzer, Albert Einstein, Knute Rockne, Irving Berlin, Frank Capra, Bob Hope, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, Pamela Anderson, Patrick Ewing, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Jennings, Ted Cruz, John McCain, none of these famous Americans were actually born in the United States.

What? You wanted to add something? Hello?

In fact, at the moment there are four US Senators and seven Representatives serving in the US Congress who were not born in the United States. 

And where does that leave us?

If it’s not where we were born or the color of our skin or the god we worship or the job we do or food we eat or the music we listen to or the language we speak, if it’s not the car we drive or the house we live in, well then what is it?

What makes someone an American and somebody else not?

It must be something.

It has to be right?

Is it just because we’re here?

Is it just a piece of paper that says we are?

Is that all it is? Paperwork?


Or is there more to it?


Isn’t being an American about an ideal?

Isn’t being an American about what’s inside of you? About who you are?

Isn’t being an American about what you’re willing to fight for, what you believe in, what you’re willing to die for?

Isn’t being an American about hope? About belief? About taking a chance? About a willingness to dream big. About the courage to reach for something better against all odds? About the moxie to face down your government and call them to account whenever and wherever – even if it’s the the middle of lunch?

Well, isn’t it?

Black, White, Brown, Yellow, Red, male, female, young, old, straight, gay, Left, Right, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, Pagan, atheist, rich, poor, smart, stupid, all of us, isn’t that who we Americans are? Down underneath it all. Isn’t that exactly what America is about?

Isn’t that, that right there, the thing which makes you an American?

Tell me, is it not a burning desire for freedom and a thirst for liberty?

Isn’t being an American about spirit?

Let me ask you something: Would an American, a real American, let a wall stop them?

Would they?

Would they really?



Cut it out! Cut it out! Cut it out! The hell's the matter with you? Stupid! We're all very different people. We're not Watusi. We're not Spartans. We're Americans, with a capital 'A', huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We're the underdog. We're mutts!
- John Winger, Stripes, 1981