Thursday, March 01, 2012

About the Death of Andrew Breitbart

So far I've heard 3 or 4 short news stories on the radio, some on NPR, and read a few. Most talked about him as if he were an honorable man.

As for his real persona, the only comments I heard were that he was "controversial." While the reports talked about his expose of Anthony Weiner, they never mentioned the foaming-at-the-mouth sadistic glee he took in that affair. And most said nothing at all about Shirley Sherrod, Van Jones or ACORN, where his satanic majesty destroyed the careers of really honorable people working hard to help America live up to its values and ideals.

It's the rabid attack on those values and ideals that he should be remembered for, not as a fearless crusading conservative for all that is holy, as the media's hagiography concludes. And so we all are supposed to be graceful and say nice things, and be sensitive to the grief his loved ones are no doubt feeling. And even though Breitbart would be dancing on our graves, as he did with Ted Kennedy, we are supposed to take the high road and be respectful--after all, he died far too young. Doesn't that earn him some slack from the left?

No, what he earned is to be immortalized as an exemplar of the worst humanity has to offer.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011



What changes can we expect in our society as a result of the Tucson massacre?

Over the last few days since the shooting, we've heard a lot of reporting and conversation about the ramifications of this latest gun massacre by a clearly mentally disturbed individual. it seems to me there are three issues at the center of this incident, only one of which has dominated the reporting--the violent rhetoric and the atmosphere it has created.

As for that, we've heard plenty.

One of the less reported issues is the easy access Loughner had to both a semi-automatic weapon, and apparently easier still, the 30-round clip magazine he bought at Walmart. A 30-round clip is larger than any police force standard issue, and is used by law enforcement agencies in rare cases; it is used only for killing lots of people, fast. As he did.

And almost no one is talking about the defunding of mental illness prevention and treatment in the US over the last decades.

The intersection of the last two raises the question of screening out potential buyers of guns or ammunition-- those that are deemed mentally unstable--especially of course semi-automatic weapons and high capacity clips.

The lack of mental health funding seriously impairs our country's ability to isolate, treat and/or quarantine those likely to commit violent crime.  So in so many cases where an historical look back at the perpetrators' behavior indicates obvious mental health issues that were not either addressed or followed up on, we bemoan the fact the the perp fell through the cracks of our mental health network.

And since these sociopaths, psychopaths, or just unbalanced wackos are not in our system, they of course are not screened out at the Walmart gun counter.  Many may have access to illegal products, but it appears most perps bought their weapons and ammo legally.

The only ongoing debate, three days after the shooting, is whether the "vitriolic rhetoric" can be a causal factor in Loughner's spree (and all the others), and regardless, who's responsible for the rhetoric.

Hardly a word about the other issues, and I expect there will be little to come.

So what changes in any of these three arenas can we expect?

Will the perpetrators of what Paul Krugman effectively calls "eliminationist rhetoric," have a mea culpa, admit it's not a good thing, and change their tone and style to comprise a more nuanced and intelligent debate on issues, stop the fear-mongering and hate speech, stop demonizing their opponents?

Will the USA see a teaching moment here and finally address the laws--or lack of them--that allow us to legally buy and own assault weapons (since the law against that was not renewed in 2004) and 30-round clips, that allow an old west trading market at gun shows?

Will we realize the defunding of mental illness prevention and treatment is not an invisible problem anymore, and has real serious consequences for our society?


Monday, December 13, 2010


Dear Barack,

Oh my love, I know you've accomplished a lot in two years, against the most intransigent and morally bankrupt opposition I've seen in my lifetime, and I know you are righteously peeved that you don't get no respect for all that. I feel your pain.

But I don't quite get why you and your party are so shy about touting all your accomplishments, like your opponents do just by breathing (if they had any—though that doesn’t seem to stop them). Like that tax break in the stim package? You know, the one that no one knows about? You could mention it a little more often, maybe, and get your peeps to make some sound bites that NPR could use, instead of letting them end segments with quotes from the Axis powers.

But no matter, because you, well, you broke my heart.

You had me at hello, and then you dumped me and started snogging with Gordon Gekko . And now I catch you in flagrante delicto with him. I know, you told me you were bi-partisan, but I thought you were just being hip.

I gave you every opportunity to show me that you still loved me, but you spurned me and changed your locks. My family says I should forget you and (you should pardon the expression) move on.

But I can't. Because if I don't love you long time, I'm going to get a Boehner in the butt. (And it's still sore from when you shoved that public option there--you naughty man.) I might also get spanked with a big Mitt, and you’re the only one I let do that!

So I’ll be waiting, my love. Now don’t take this personally, dear heart, but when your new paramour tires of your lousy loving and throws you out on those cute ears like last week’s Democratic House vote, I’ll be waiting; I’m used to lousy love from my POTUSes.

Your Base

Friday, October 22, 2010


Juan Williams

Right wing extremists—basically, the entire Republican party-- refer to the few moderates that remain as RINOs: Republicans In Name Only.

Juan Williams is the counterpart—a LINO, Liberal In Name Only. He’s the (oh dear, don’t conflate this with race, but it’s the best analogy I can think of) Uncle Tom for the mouth-breathers on Fox. He makes nicey-nice with the O’Reillys, and accommodates their constant partisan ideological rhetoric by pretending to be a liberal who sees their point. What a useful tool for Fox.

NPR listeners are, yes, primarily liberal. It’s certainly not because NPR is a liberal propaganda organ. Far from it, they seem to be overcompensating in an attempt to forestall that accusation from the right, for whom NPR might as well be the anti-Christ.

NPR isn’t just paranoid. In 2005, former Corporation for Public Broadcasting board Chairman and GOP operative Ken Tomlinson resigned from the CPB board after delivery of an investigation by CPB Inspector Kenneth Kontz. Tomlinson was under investigation for hiring outside consultants to monitor perceived liberal bias on PBS programs like NOW with Bill Moyers and other shows. When Tomlinson’s term as Chairman was up, he moved to a regular board position, named Cheryl Halpern, a major GOP donor, as chairman, and tapped Gay Hart Gaines, also a prominent Republican, as vice chair. In addition, amid howls of protest, he earlier named Patricia Harrison, former Republican National Committee co-chair, as CPB’s president. There was no doubt that this team intended to either kill CPB or cleanse it of any shred of “liberal” programming, as defined by their own ideological parameters.

Since that time, even though this attempt at a takeover was foiled, CPB and NPR have, as far as I can see, been running scared—even though, at most, only 15% of their funding comes from the gummint—some reports state that figure is as low as 2-3%.

Pleasing the right?  I don’t know why they bother; nothing they can do will soothe the rage of those who believe they are victimized by the press for being true Americans. Those delusions are not malleable—they are fixed in the brains of the believers. Truth is irrelevant.

I have progressive friends who can’t listen to NPR anymore, for its own accommodation of right-wing blowhards. More often than not, a news segment on an issue--controversial only because it is attacked as such by Republican demagogues--ends with a sound bite from Boehner, McConnell and other shining lights of the new Know-Nothings. Invariably, that sound bite will comprise lies, distortion, disinformation, or profoundly ignorant statements, and usually, all of that. And never does the content of that sound bite get challenged for truth or accuracy. Instead, it closes the segment, is left hanging there as if it’s the last word on the subject. As if it’s a valid commentary. As if it’s rational, logical, informed. As if it’s true.  

Still, NPR can’t totally ignore its audience demographics, those who contribute the single largest share of its funding.
And that audience was increasingly frustrated with Juan Williams, who let his ideological blather reign all over his commentary on NPR. The fact that Williams was also a Fox commentator didn't endear him to that audience, let alone that that disqualifies him ipso facto from any credible role on NPR. It just does, dammit.

But Williams is also a hack, a fact NPR listeners were increasingly aware of. Steve Kornacki in Salon summed it up nicely:

“But I can't remember him ever advancing any kind of groundbreaking argument, or introducing some dramatically new and intelligent perspective on a major topic. What I can remember him doing -- a lot -- is using flawed, shoddy and easily debunked logic to make arguments that were (seemingly) designed to make conservatives say, "Ah, now there’s a reasonable liberal."

And he’s a bigot.

Williams now famously began his remarks thusly: "Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

As Andrew Sullivan said about that statement, “No, Juan, what you just described is the working definition of bigotry.”

And Fox added him to their roster of pinhead bigots with a $2 million contract. Any more proof needed?

NPR, what took you so long?

And so, good riddance Juan Williams. Juannie, we wish we hardly knew ye.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Abstinence-Only States Have More Teen Pregnancy

A new CDC study concludes that the five states with the highest teen pregnancy rate are those with abstinence-only policies: Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. That will surely come as no surprise to anyone except the fun-loving legislators in those states, who also think The Flintstones is a documentary.

Especially Texas, where Thomas Jefferson is replaced in school textbooks by John Calvin. Jefferson may be remembered for coining the phrase “separation of church and state.” (Everyone knows that, of course, especially senatorial candidates)  

Calvin, famous for being both the church and the state, is also known for saying that The Bible says “that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can't masturbate without lust.” That sounds so familiar, so contemporary, doesn’t it? So in Texas, you can’t play with your own naughty bits, but you sure can play with someone else’s.

Of course, there may be another reason why the teen pregnancy rate is so high in those states.

After a night out mainlining moon pies, what else have they got to do?

The states with the lowest teen baby boom are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. See--no moon pies, no big bellies.

Maine, unfortunately, is too cold for sex.

For more on this study, go here:


Ozzy Osbourne is writing an advice column for Rolling Stone. Yes, I know. But, as RS asks, “Why not?”

Question: I suffer from Vertigo. What can I do to cure it?
Answer from Ozzy: I thought I had vertigo for 40 years. I sent to the doctor, and he said, “Mr. Osbourne, the problem—as far as I can tell—is simply that you’re very very drunk.” So my prescription for you is to go to bed, drink only water, then get up and walk around in circles for a bit. If you’re still dizzy, let me know.

Can’t argue with that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


We note today that:

1)Professional Obfuscator S. Palin got a combined SAT score of 841. Who says SAT scores are not a predictor of ability?

2)Professional Putz Christine O'Donnell, in debate:
O'Donnell: "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?"
Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion.
O'Donnell:"You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"
Audience: "Gasp."

Nevermind that. There'll be plenty more where that came from, and for the rest of our lives.

Instead,watch this video I made of Malaguena Salerosa performed by 60's folk duo Bud & Travis, masters of the genre; a hauntingly beautiful rendition of the classic Mexican folk song.

Monday, October 18, 2010


By now you’ve probably heard about this story. A resident of Obion County, Tennessee, Gene Cranick, lost his home and pets to a fire because he forgot to pay the annual $75.00 fee for fire protection.  Gene Cranick lives outside the South Fulton limits, therefore he must pay the South Fulton fire department the fee for protection.  

He didn’t pay the fee, and he didn’t get service. A neighbor, who had paid the fee, called the fire department, fearing his own house would burn. Firefighters showed up, protected the neighbor’s house, but refused to save Cranick’s house. That’s right—they refused to help. Cranick and his family lost all of their possessions in the Sept. 29 fire, along with three dogs and a cat.

What do we make of this?  Does it matter if Cranick actually did forget to pay the fee, or as some speculate, he just didn’t want to? What would the fire department have done if Cranick had told them there were people trapped inside? 

The firefighters “did the right thing,” said Kevin Williamson of the National Review. “The world is full of jerks, freeloaders, and ingrates—and the problems they create for themselves are their own.”

Contrast that with what Eric Zorn said in the Chicago Tribune. “The unluckiest or most hapless among us” will sometimes experience disaster, and “it violates our collective sense of decency to stand by while others suffer.”

The Boston Globe last Sunday reported on a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research that found that college students today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were in 1979.

The article goes on to say “According to the findings, today’s students are generally less likely to describe themselves as “soft-hearted” or to have “tender, concerned feelings” for others. They are more likely, meanwhile, to admit that “other people’s misfortunes” usually don’t disturb them. In other words, they might be constantly aware of their friends’ whereabouts, but all that connectedness doesn’t seem to be translating to genuine concern for the world and one another.”

Do a thought experiment,” said Mark Davis, a professor of psychology at Eckerd College in Florida who’s spent the last 30 years studying empathy. “Imagine if humans didn’t have the capacity for empathy. What would it mean if, in fact, we never gave a damn about what happened to other people? That’s an almost an inconceivable world.”

Imagine. And think about what Kevin Williamson said.

Which world do you want to live in? 


This blog, and this writer, have been silent too long. After all, as we sink into a stew of social media, mobile madness and the basic irrelevance of truth, somebody's got to stand up and say, "So Near, And Yet...So What." Might as well be me.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Murder My Sweet: Bush, Stem Cells and the German Chancellor

Astute Boston Globe reader George Yates writes to the editor last week:

"Why doesn't President Bush use the same logic toward fighting a war on various diseases that he does towards the war in Iraq?

He sent us to war in Iraq and knows real people are going to die for what he believes is a good cause.

But when it ocmes to medical research, he doesn't want to send embryos, potential people off to battle to save real people's lives."

Reader Yates, forgets, however, that logic, as most humans define it, including embryos, has little to do with the decisions made by Bush.

Bush massaging Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel's shoulders (others more kindly refer to it as "groping") at the GM Summit--now that's logic! Because he, of course, was clearing deadly brush he spotted on her shoulders--and Bush knows brush! He saved her furshlugginer life! Saving life is one of Bush's highest priorities, as he again illustrates.

As you watch the video (,layout=2.html)
you can see Merkel throw up her shoulder and arms. Some say this gesture was done in either surprise, revulsion or anger. But look again--she's clearly grateful someone had the courage to remove that festering sage that perpetually plagues the Chancellor. Germans being a demure people, no one in her entourage risked gotterdammerung by even acknowledging its existence.

No such problem for the leader of the free world. Kudos again for his insight and swift reactions.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

No Pun Intended

Currently circulating the Internet, the "10 first place winners in the International Pun Contest":

1. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger."

2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says "Dam!".

3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says "I've lost my electron." The other says "Are you sure?" The first replies "Yes, I'm positive."

5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse.
"But why?" they asked, as they moved off. "Because", he said, "I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer."

7. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him "Juan." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."

8. These friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they did so ... thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

9. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

10. And finally, there was the person who sent ten different puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

On the Bible and the Constitution

On the Bible and the Constitution

On Wednesday, March 1st, 2006, in Annapolis at a hearing on the
proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie
Raskin, professor of law at AU, was requested to testify.

At the end of his testimony, Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs said:
"Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a
woman. What do you have to say about that?"

Raskin replied: "Senator, when you took your oath of office, you
placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution.
You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold
the Bible."

The room erupted into applause.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

On being 'good Americans' in a time of torture

Here's a terrific article from Zmag, reprinted in The Smirking Chimp:

Fred Branfman: 'On being 'good Americans' in a time of torture'

Date: Tuesday, February 28 @ 09:52:40 EST
Topic: War & Terrorism

"Gestapo interrogation methods included: repeated near drownings of a prisoner in a bathtub."

"The CIA officers say 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed lasted the longest under waterboarding, two and a half minutes, before beginning to talk, with debatable results."
-- Brian Ross, ABC World News Tonight, November 18, 2005

"When President Bush last week signed the bill outlawing the torture of detainees, he quietly reserved the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander in chief. Bush believes he can waive the restrictions, the White House and legal specialists said."
-- "Bush Could Bypass Torture Ban," Boston Globe, January 4, 2006
As a teenager, I could not understand how the German people could claim to be "good Germans," unaware of what the Nazis had done in their names. I could understand if these ordinary German people had said they had known and been horrified, but were afraid to speak up. But they would then be "weak, fearful or indifferent Germans," not "good Germans." The idea that only the Nazis were responsible for the Holocaust made no sense.

Whatever the Germans as a whole know about the concentration camps, they certainly knew about the systematic mistreatment of Jews that had occurred before their very eyes, and from which so many had profited. And if they were not really "good Germans," I wondered, what should or could they have done, given the reality of Nazi tyranny?

The issue became personal for me in the summer of 1961, when I hitchhiked through Europe with a lovely German woman named Inge. Still in love after an idyllic summer, we visited Hyde Park the day before I was to return home. A bearded, middle-aged concentration-camp survivor was angrily attacking the German people for standing by and letting the Jews be slaughtered. I was moved beyond words. Suddenly the woman I loved began yelling angrily at him, screaming that the Germans did not know, that her father had just been a soldier and was not responsible for the Holocaust.

Our relationship essentially ended then and there. I understood intellectually that she was just defending her father and was neither an anti-Semite nor an evil person. But there it was. She on one side. The survivor on the other. A gulf between them. Whatever my head said, my heart knew that the world is divided into evil-doers, their victims, and those like Inge who do not want to know.

And that I had no choice but to stand with the victims.

I never dreamed at that moment that I, as an American, would a few years later face this same question as my government committed mass murder of civilians in Indochina in violation of the Nuremberg Principles. Or that more than four decades later I would still be struggling with what it means to be a "good American" after learning that a group of U.S. leaders has unilaterally seized the right to torture anyone it chooses without evidence and in violation of international law, human decency, and the sacrifice of the many Americans who have died fighting autocracy and totalitarianism.

Bush Embraces Torture

To ask what it means to be a "good American" is not to compare Bush to Hitler, or Republicans to Nazis. The question does not arise only when leaders engage in mass murder on the scale of a Hitler or Stalin, which Bush has not. It requires only that they engage in actions that are clearly evil, which Bush has.

Every generation or so an evil arises which is so monstrous, so degrading to the human spirit, so morally bankrupt, that even to debate it is a sign of moral corruption. Native American genocide, slavery, totalitarianism, and Jim Crow laws are evils so unspeakable that we cannot understand today how anyone with a shred of decency could have once supported them. Today torture, a practice far more degrading to us than to our victims, represents such an evil.

The issue has become urgent because Bush has chosen to demand the legal right to torture anyone he wishes. When torture was revealed at Abu Ghraib, the administration - falsely and shamelessly - attempted to shift its own responsibility onto foot-soldiers like Lynndie England. Since then, however, leaks have revealed that the CIA has tortured terrorist suspects all around the world, using techniques like "waterboarding." In response, Senator John McCain proposed an amendment, attached to the 2006 Defense bill, that would ban torture.

Bush's first response to McCain's amendment was to threaten to veto the Defense Bill if it passed. When it became clear that McCain's amendment would pass by an overwhelming majority (it passed in by a 90-9 margin in the end), Bush reversed course and said he would support the amendment. Yet when he actually signed the bill, Bush added something called a "signing statement" in which he reserved the right to do whatever he chooses as Commander-in-Chief to "protect the American people from further terrorist attacks." In short, even as he signed McCain's amendment, Bush let it be known that he intends to torture as he sees fit.

Bush's demand is unprecedented. No leader in all human history, not even Hitler, Stalin, or Mao, has publicly demanded the right to torture. All others have behaved as Bush did before the amendment when he secretly tortured on a scale unseen in American history even while saying he wasn't. Forced into the open by the McCain amendment, however, Bush chose to openly demand the legal right to torture. Most experts assume he will continue to torture.

It is important to understand what this means. Bush justifies his right to torture on the grounds of saving American lives in a global "war on terrorism." Unlike previous wars, however, this war will never end. On the contrary, Bush's bungling of the war on terror--including the increased Muslim hatred of the United States that the practice of torture has caused--makes it more likely that there will be another domestic 9/11, leading in turn to more demands to torture. Bush's assertion of his right to torture, therefore, would make torture a permanent and growing instrument of U.S. state policy.

Also, by opposing the McCain amendment, Bush took direct responsibility for the torture he and his administration have inflicted on countless suspects. As you read these words, people are screaming in agony from Gestapo techniques used in CIA and "allied" torture chambers around the world. Many or even most of the victims are innocent. The New Republic has noted that "Pentagon reports have acknowledged that up to 90 percent of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib, many of whom were abused and tortured, were not guilty of anything.... And Abu Ghraib produced a tiny fraction of the number of abuse, torture, and murder cases that have been subsequently revealed."


Mr. Bush's statement that "we do not torture," even as he was threatening to veto the entire Defense bill because it limited his right to torture, is a dramatic example of how torture degrades the torturer even more than his victims. And it is a disgraceful commentary on our nation that no major church, business, or political leader, nor the fawning media personalities who interview him and his officials, has expressed outrage at this bald-faced lie. And one can barely mention an unspeakable Congress, which ignored his lying about torture after spending two years impeaching his predecessor for lying about sex.

The real question for us, however, is what this says not about President Bush and our other leaders, but ourselves. What are we, as citizens, as human beings, willing to live with? Are we willing to live with a President, Vice-President, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and Attorney-General who either engage in or rationalize torture in our names, even as they shamelessly deny they are doing so?

If we are willing to live with this evil, the torture will continue. If not, it can be brought to an end. Who are we?

Becoming "Good Americans"

We are in some ways more morally compromised than the "good Germans" of the 1930s.

To begin with, we are far less able to claim we do not know. Our daily newspapers regularly report new revelations of Bush Administration torture.

Second, by opposing torture, we face far less severe threats than did Germans who tried to help Jews. Even the strong possibility that we could become targets of illegal spying by this Administration for protesting its torture is far less frightening than the death or imprisonment faced by Germans who helped Jews.

And, third, unlike the Germans, we cannot reasonably claim that it is futile to oppose our leaders. Creating or joining an organized effort to prevent torture can succeed because we possess one great advantage that human rights advocates in Germany did not have: the public is with us.

Most Americans abhor torture and can understand the argument that it does not protect American lives. This is why the McCain amendment enjoyed 90 percent majorities in the Republican-controlled House and Senate, and why it is possible to bring to power leaders who are not committed to torture.

If we can build a movement to limit and ultimately remove from power those who torture, and thus endanger our lives, we will be achieving other important goals as well.

We will be building support for international law, which is one of humanity's few frail protections against far greater violence. If we can implement international law against torture, perhaps we can extend it to preventing the murder of civilians or aggressive war. We will be reaffirming America's once strong commitment to building the kind of new international order that is required to reduce international terrorism, and fostering a world in which U.S. leaders would once again be respected as fighters for human decency rather than despised as threats to it.

We will bring the once-powerful but forgotten force of morality and nonviolent action-- for civil rights, for peace, for women's rights-- back into our politics. A false morality that claims to love Jesus while torturing and killing in his name will be replaced by an authentic morality that seeks to address the root-causes of terrorism and violence.

We will thus also join this renewed moral force with a practical strategy that can actually protect us from terrorism. Torture is only the most dramatic example of how Bush has endangered our lives by bungling the war on terrorism. He has also dangerously neglected Homeland Security, alienated world opinion, helped Al Qaeda grow in numbers and fervor, wasted vast resources in Iraq in ways that increase terrorist ranks, failed to build an effective democracy in Afghanistan, failed to bring peace to the Middle East, and failed to address the poverty that fuels anti-American terrorism. Ending torture is a necessary precondition to developing an effective strategy that will actually protect rather than endanger Americans.

And we will strengthen democracy at home. Nothing is more un-American and undemocratic than the idea that a small group of Executive Branch leaders should be free to torture, kill, and spy at will. This idea is in fact precisely what generations of Americans have died fighting against. Ending Bush's use of torture will be the beginning of restoring an accountable and democratic government to this nation.

Conservative Totalitarianism

Ending torture will have a major impact beyond torture itself for a simple reason: as slavery was the linchpin to the entire pre-bellum Southern social order, torture has become integral to today's conservative ideology. Conservative ideology was once a coherent set of ideas built around limiting state power over the individual. It has today degenerated into a rationale for expanding executive power over the individual, including not only the right to torture but the right to spy on citizens, wage aggressive war while lying about it, prevent gay people from marrying, deny a woman the right to an abortion, publish disguised government propaganda in the media, and even deny us the right to die in peace if conservatives decree that we must live as vegetables or in unendurable pain.

It is no coincidence that the executive's right to torture was defended not only by Bush and Cheney, but also by conservative ideologues at The Weekly Standard, financed by media mogul Rupert Murdoch and edited by William Kristol, who published a cover story by Charles Krauthammer-- widely admired in conservative circles-- which declared that "we must all be prepared to torture" to save American lives. Or that The National Review opined that "if McCain's amendment becomes law ... we will then be able to apply only methods formulated to deal with conventional soldiers in a different sort of conflict than the one that faces us now. This is folly."

Today's conservative movement has been reduced to a set of impulses, above all a totalitarian impulse to support the expansion of autocratic power it was founded to restrain. Since its ideological blinders prevent it from developing sensible measures to reduce terrorism, it has turned to justifying only those policies that expand executive power and seek to rule through coercion, threats, and violence.

Whatever a movement to abolish torture will achieve for society, it is clear what participating in it means for each of us as individuals. It means above all that our children and grandchildren will not remember us with shame, that they will not one day have to try to justify to our victims our failure to oppose the torture being conducted in our names, and that the term "Good American" will mean just that, and not an excuse for fear or indifference, like the idea of the "Good German."

When we fight to end torture we not only fight for human decency, international law, democracy, and freedom.

We fight for ourselves.

Fred Branfman is a writer and long-time political activist. His email address is and his website is He is writing a book entitled Facing Death at Any Age.

Source: Zmag

Shall I Return?

My last post was over a year ago, below this one, reprinting Greg Palast's article Oaf of Office. Since then the oaf's cabal's increasingly successful attempt to overturn the core principles of American democracy as developed over the last 70 years or so, and turn the country into a money machine for the plutocrats, has silenced me. It was just too damn depressing.

Outrage after outrage was ignored by most of the public, barely fought against by the wimpiest Democratic leadership I've seen in my lifetime, and emboldened the thieves to the point of absurdity.

While the Democrats ate their young, the goose stepping Republicans seemed to support every insidious action of the neocons, who are about as far removed from traditional conservative/Republican values as they could get. How could the conservatives be so acquiescent in the face of a band of radicals marginalizing even them? Did they buy into the daily barrage of propaganda that claimed to even disagree with their president was treasonous, despite the fact that the actions of the president are all that's really treasonous? Apparently, since they're inclined towards that paradigm anyway. Was Britney Spears their true spokesperson?

But at last there's room for optimism. I don't know if the America that continued to address its faults and excesses and at least made perfunctory if not real attempts to live up to its mandate can ever be restored. The damage is almost irreversible.

Grover Norquist's "starve the beast" philosophy has prevailed, and the transfer of wealth, ownership, and even freedom from the masses to the elite 1% is almost complete. It's always been true that the rich got richer on the backs of the rest of us, but good lord, the past five years have been supermarket spree for these pricks. Even the military has been victimized.
And the greatest tragedy is they didn't even have to hide what they were doing. They were so convinced of their power that they were never the least bit embarrassed over the exposure of their constant doublespeak; they simpy carried on or redoubled their efforts, while stealing power from every governmental institution created to check that power.

But it appears even the Republican loonies in Congress have had enough. Maybe it's self preservation over the exposure of their corruption, but regardless they've recently publicly and at times vociferously opposed the Bush steamroller. Bipartisan or even partisan congressional inquiries or committees have blasted the administration over Katrina, NSA, the failure in Iraq turning that country into the much-predicted abbatoir(70% of the soldiers in Iraq think it's time to get out of there now), and now Oobye Doobye Doobye.

And the public appears to finally be seeing that not only does the emporor have no clothes, but he's stripping them naked too. The oaf's approval rating has hit 33%. The Democrats are now more trusted than the Republicans for national security--by only a few percentage points, but it's still a major shift. In fact, it's an earthquake.

(It's interesting to note that after years of unrelenting bashing of Clinton--the famed right wing conspiracy was indeed real--that man had a 70% approval rating during his impeachment!)

The public appears, too, to be tiring of the constant barrage of extremist and intolerant religious blather and chastising, the continued empowerment of the fundamentalist American talibanny, and the emptiness of the right wing rhetoric, the impossible-to-miss hypocracy of it all. Fox News is still a ratings champ, but the extreme of the extreme--O'Reilly, Hannity, and their ilk--are continually losing ratings on TV and on radio losing them to Air America. By no means has the power and influence of the right wing media--that it to say, most of the media--shifted to the left or even the center. But it's movement in that direction, and that's the first time in 5 years we've seen that.

The odds of the Democrats taking back one or even both houses of Congress in 2006--only recently still a pipe dream--now seem worth considering. After all this ignominy on the side of the Republicans, the odds of a Democrat winning the White House are also enhanced.

It's still going to be a tough battle. The cabal is not going to simply roll over. But it's not unreasonable anymore to envision them not only playing dead, but truly mortally wounded.

Hope is not just the place where 10,700 FEMA trailers remain mired in the mud of incompetence and corruption. It's a word that now can be uttered allowed, without irony.

Friday, January 21, 2005


Greg Palast is Dr. Feelgood. After all the blather, bazzfazz and claptrap about the inaugural comes some writing to lift one's spirits. Wish I said that.

Thursday, January 20, 2005
by Greg Palast

Watching John Kerry lip-synch the oath of office, I couldn't help wondering, 'what if.'

Here on stage in Washington was the winner-class warmed and protected by cashmere and tax cuts against the strange, nipple-chilling cold. Hell had frozen over.

Our President said, "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation." Well, no, it isn't.

Our President said, "We will widen retirement savings and health insurance." No, he won't.

Our President said, "America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains." Yes, he will.

Our President said, "And our country must abandon all the habits of racism." Oh, sure.

He doesn't believe a single word he's saying. And all over America, everyone knows he's lying and America is truly relieved.

America doesn't want to give up the habit of racism. Karl Rove doesn't. Jeb Bush doesn't. If not for challenging hundreds of thousands of voters in Black precincts of Ohio and other swing states, if not for purging thousands more from voter rolls for the crime of voting while Black, you wouldn't be president now, would you, Mr. President?

You won't "pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains," unless they are chained by your buck-buddies in Saudi Arabia.

You'll "support democratic movements" so long as the citizens of Venezuela don't get carried away and decide that democracy means they can choose a leader you don't like.

And you'll "widen Social Security and health insurance"? Who are you kidding? I just got a doctor bill for $5,200 … should I send it to you at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

You said, "You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs." What you meant was, "Courage is fragile and real evil triumphs." Indeed your entire campaign was about American cowardice: "they" are coming to get us. Americans, scared for their lives, soiled their underpants and waddled to the polls crying, "Georgie, save us!"

Franklin Roosevelt said in his inaugural, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." But he didn't have Dick Cheney creating from his bunker a government which is little more than a Wal-Mart of Fear: midnight snatchings of citizens for uncharged crimes, wars to hunt for imaginary weapons aimed at Los Angeles, DNA data banks of kids and grandmas, the Chicken Little sky-is-falling social security spook-show, and shoe-searches in airports. Fear is your only product.

In another world, in which all votes are counted, J.F. Kerry would have gathered most of those arcane chits called "electoral votes" and would have taken that oath today.

But, dear Reader, there's one cold statistic Kerry voters must face. The fact that Republicans monkeyed with the votes in swing states doesn't wash away that big red stain: 59 million Americans marched to the polls and voted for George W. Bush.

If bin Laden doesn't scare you, THAT should.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Abstinence-Only Programs: Crimes against Humanity

The following report is from the National Coalition Against Censorship. Along with PFAW, the ACLU, and a handful of others, these folks are about all that stands between us and the destruction of the first amendment, in spirit if not in fact.

Join them. Fight this insanity.

Abstinence-Only: Short on Facts, Long on Fancy

Winter 2004-2005

Students enrolled in federally-funded abstinence-only sex education programs are misinformed about science, deprived of vital health information, and exposed to gender stereotypes and religious dogma, according to a Congressional study commissioned by California Representative Henry A. Waxman. Eleven of the thirteen most commonly taught programs are found to be severely flawed, yet the federal government has doubled funding over the past four years. $170 million has been appropriated for fiscal year 2005 to teach that abstinence-until-marriage is the expected standard of behavior and the only way to avoid pregnancy, sexually-transmitted diseases, and mental and psychological harm.

This federal program institutionalizes censorship in the nation's schools. Information inconsistent with the "abstinence-only" message is excluded. As a result, curricula omit or distort information about contraceptives, same sex relationships and abortion, and condoms are mentioned only to say they fail. According to the report, the most popular programs expose millions of young people to misinformation, such as:

  • A pregnancy occurs one of every seven times that couples use condoms;
  • In heterosexual sex, condoms fail to prevent HIV approximately 31% of the time;
  • Touching another person’s genitals can result in pregnancy;
  • Exposure to sweat and tears are risk factors for HIV transmission;
  • 5% to 10% of women who have legal abortions will become sterile;
  • Premature birth, a major cause of mental retardation, is increased following the abortion of a first pregnancy;
  • Tubal and cervical pregnancies are increased following abortions;
  • While a man needs little or no preparation for sex, a woman often needs hours of emotional and mental preparation.

One thing that is not excluded from abstinence-only programs is religion. One course teaches that life begins at fertilization, and another that "a 43-day-old fetus is a thinking person."

For the full report, see Rep. Waxman's Website:

In Louisiana, the ACLU has renewed its claims charging the state with religious indoctrination in a taxpayer-funded program that advocates abstinence-only to avoid pregnancy and STDs and "to please God." The ACLU claims the program violates a court settlement reached in 2002 over a similar religion-based program that used taxpayer funds to purchase Bibles and religious tapes.

NCAC launched its Sex and Censorship Campaign in 1999, condemning abstinence-only programs as government censorship, as an affront to the principle of church-state separation, and as ineffective and unnecessary. 45 national groups joined in a statement to members of Congress to object to government imposition of ideological views as a mask for education (see Censorship News 80).

Impugn Her Integrity. Please

Twice in a matter of weeks Senator Barbara Boxer has shown she is one of the few Democrats left with balls, though Kerry found one of his as well. The other one is still stuck to his biking shorts, I guess. Now there's something I do know about.

Next time Boxer's campaign calls me for a donation, I'm there.

Anyway, I refer to the confirmation hearings of world class liar Condoleeza Rice. She took umbrage when Boxer confronted her with her own contradictory statements (we call them lies in the real world), asked Boxer not to impugn her (Rice's) integrity.

Too late. None left to impugn.

Worth noting, too, her unwillingness to admit any mistakes. As with other members of the neocon cabal, admitting mistakes is tantamount to child molesting. It's simply not done. Gods don't make mistakes. Especially those that see mandates the way some people see The Blessed Virgin in water stains on a dirty stucco wall in Tiajuana.

Here's a recap from the American Progress Action Fund:

Demur, Defer, Deter

In nearly ten hours of testimony yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bush Secretary of State nominee Condoleezza Rice faced "pointed questions about her role in shaping U.S. policies over the past four years," especially America's strategy in Iraq and treatment of prisoners there and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But "throughout the long day, Rice said little that so much as suggested a pending departure from any of the Bush administration's present policies, toward Iraq or any other issue." Instead, on issues from whether the U.S. would stay the course in Iraq, to her feelings about torture, Rice substituted doubletalk and obfuscation for straight answers, refusing to take responsibility for any of the "serial disasters" that characterized President Bush's first-term foreign policy.

STILL NO PLAN: Refusing "to set any timetable for the withdrawal of American troops," Rice made it painfully clear that the Bush administration has no long term strategy for Iraq. Citing concern among Iraqi and American officials that the U.S. plans to cut and run in Iraq, Sen. Biden (D-DE) asked Rice if there was any "reasonable possibility that the United States would withdraw the bulk of its forces before the end of 2005." Rice replied, "I can't judge that," adding lamely, "I will say that we're going to try to help the Iraqis get this done." As Slate's Fred Kaplan pointed out, "This wasn't even a 'non-denial denial.' It wasn't a denial. [Rice] declined to assure the Iraqis or anyone else that the United States is firmly committed…The question that Biden said everyone is asking in Iraq—are we staying, or are we plotting to cut and run?—remains, remarkably, unanswered."

THE TRAINING GAME: On Tuesday, Rice once again exaggerated the progress of programs to train Iraqi soldiers. As recently as last September, Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld promised there would be 145,000 Iraqis "sufficiently trained and equipped" by the time of the elections. On Tuesday, Rice estimated the number was "somewhere over 120,000." Biden, who was recently in Iraq, sharply contradicted her: "I think you'll find, if you speak to the folks on the ground, they don't think there's more than 4,000 actually trained Iraqi forces." According to figures released last week, about 53,000 police officers, 40,000 national guard members and 4,000 soldiers are 'trained and on hand.'" But "Mass defections of Iraqi troops are still frequent," with some guard brigades recording losses of up to 50 percent of their personnel. Committee Chairman Dick Lugar (R-IN) appealed to Rice to "come up with 'some measurement' to gauge progress on the issue."

RICE'S TORTURED RESPONSE: In one of the most dramatic moments of the hearing, Rice declined to make a clear statement against the use of torture. Citing instances of forced nudity and simulated drowning as interrogation techniques, Sen. Dodd (D-CT) asked Rice, "What are your views on that? Is that torture, in your view, or not?" Rice "declined to characterize" the abusive methods, saying such determinations were made by the Justice Department and that it wouldn't be "appropriate" for her to comment. "It's a disappointing answer," Dodd retorted, "with the world watching, when a simple question is raised about techniques that I think most people would conclude in this country are torture, it's important at a moment like that that you can speak clearly and directly."

RICE WANTS LIES RESPECTED: Rice refused to take responsibility for her misstatements in the run-up to the war in Iraq. On 9/9/02, Rice said, "We do know that [Saddam] is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon." And on 9/7/03, Rice said, "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." Later, after weapons inspector David Kay had determined Iraq's nuclear weapons programs were retired in 1991, Rice told PBS that "It was a case that said he was trying to reconstitute…Nobody ever said that it was going to be the next year." Rice did not admit any inconsistency in those statements, instead lashing out at Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) at her hearing for "impugning my integrity." But Rice impugned her own integrity: click here for more than fifty Rice misstatements about 9/11 and the war in Iraq during her four year tenure as national security advisor.

CLUELESS IN IRAN: According to an article by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker, President Bush's "next strategic target" is Iran, where U.S. forces have for months been carrying out secret reconnaissance missions in preparation for possible air strikes. Questioned about the article by John Kerry (D-MA), Rice said it was "inaccurate." Kerry asked, "About Iran?" Rice replied, "It is inaccurate." This exchange was repeated a few times. "Finally, Rice said that hitting Iran with airstrikes was not U.S. policy. Kerry let it go. But it's worth pointing out that Hersh didn't claim it was policy, only that the top civilians in the Pentagon were pushing for it to be policy." Otherwise, Rice "broke no new ground in how the administration plans to deal with the nuclear threats posed by North Korea and Iran."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Plus ca change Posted by Hello


"Most Americans still rank trust high on their list of virtues,
invariable citing it as the most important quality they seek in a
relationship. Indeed, to be able to trust fully is the single most
important criterion for a lasting, deeply satisfying relationship."

"Trust is the cornerstone of every relationship we have - an unspoken
assumption about how we will behave toward, as well as be treated by
others. And because it is unspoken, we assume everyone else operates
from the same reference point that we do. We expect those we trust
to be faithful, loyal and honest. With trust comes respect, personal
safety and intimacy. When someone deceives us, when they hide parts
of themselves or their actions from us, when they tell us only what
they think we want to hear, or when they put their needs above ours,
they demolish our dignity and shatter our self-esteem. The fallout
from broken trust remains astonishingly the same: the victims are left
with a gut-wrenching emptiness and hurt. They don't feel safe any
longer - emotionally, physically, spiritually, sometimes even
financially. Many victims discover that, while they can no longer
count on those who betrayed them, neither can they trust themselves.
Their judgment is now faulty, their lives paralyzed. Whey they fail
to acknowledge is that their own goodness and intelligence cannot help
them anticipate, or protect them from, the malice and dishonesty of

The Tao of Arthur

The Tao Of Arthur*

1) Start Slowly...Taper Off.

2) Everything You Know Is Wrong.

3) No Matter Where You Go, There You Are.
3a) But there's no there there.--G. Stein

4) So Near, And Yet...So What?
4a) It's a one-shot deal--no second chances.--William Burroughs

5) Give me the strength to change the things I can, the grace to accept the things I cannot, and a great big bag of money.

6)Paranoia is just having all the facts.--William Burroughs, again
6a) Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

7) If it ain't broke--break it.

8) If work were such a splendid thing, the rich
would have kept more of it for themselves.

9) “Things are more like they are now
than they ever were before.” --Ike

10)The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.

11) I am not sincere, even when I say I am not.
(Alternate: You’ve no idea what a poor opinion I have of myself, and how little I deserve it.)

*Remember, this life is a test. This is not an actual life. This is only a test. If this had been an actual life, you would have been given further instructions on where to go and what to do.

And, remember the words of the prophet:
"I came to a fork in the road, and I took it

A message from America Coming Together

Some things haven't changed. It's time to ACT. Click here.

There are so many powerful images from our country's long struggle for racial and economic equality. Every history book has the same black and white pictures -- from places like Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee.

So, as we prepare to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King on Monday, I'd like to share some equally powerful images of Election Day, 2004 -- from places like Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

In honor of Dr. King and the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, please sign your name to our demand for electoral reform nationwide.

Join the fight. Send these images to everyone you know.

We're just beginning to understand the impact of the aggressive campaign of misinformation, repression and intimidation that was unleashed by corrupt Republican officials and partisans in 2004. Here are just a few examples (View the orginials by clicking here ):

In Lake County, Ohio, a fake letter appearing to come from the Lake County Board of Elections was sent to newly registered voters saying that registrations gathered by progressive organizations (including ACT) are illegal and those voters would not be able to vote.

The week before the election, flyers were circulated in Milwaukee under the heading "Milwaukee Black Voters League" with some "warnings for election time" including that anyone convicted of any offense, however minor, is ineligible to vote; that any family member having been convicted of anything would disqualify a voter; and that any violation of these warnings would result in ten years in prison and a voter's children being taken away.

A flyer designed to look like an official announcement from McCandless Township in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, was designed to misinform voters on a partisan basis. The flyer claimed that "Due to the immense voter turnout that is expected on Tuesday, November 2 the state of Pennsylvania has requested an extended voting period" encouraging people to vote on November 3rd.

So, with the dust settling on the 2004 elections, a much longer fight must continue on the streets and in the precincts where too many voices went unheard.
This petition and the strength of ACT's ongoing field campaign will oppose and defeat any corrupt federal, state, and local official who blocks common sense efforts to ensure fairer voting in future elections. Demand change today. Learn more here.

We will not win by sending emails and airing television commercials. We will only win by building strong organizations on the ground from coast-to-coast. This is what ACT is doing in 2005.

Over the coming weeks, ACT staff and volunteers will be organizing town hall meetings to review the elections of 2004 and discuss our plans for the future. This is your chance to help shape ACT's future and build the volunteer organization needed to win in 2005 and beyond.
Currently, we are making plans for meetings in the following cities.

Columbus, OH - TBDLos Angeles, CA - January 22
Milwaukee, WI - TBD
New York, NY - January 18 (*Capacity reached. More events soon.)
Philadelphia, PA - TBD
Phoenix, AZ - TBD
St. Louis, MO - TBD
More cities to be announced soon!

If you are involved with a volunteer organization in another city that worked with ACT in 2004 or looking to work with us in the future, please let us know how we can support your continued efforts in 2005. Email .

Steve RosenthalCEOAmerica Coming Together

PS. From National Journal's Charlie Cook, printed on January 11, 2005, on what went right in 2004:
"Democrats, chiefly through America Coming Together, mounted what was not only the most sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation in the party's history, but it was probably the best field work by a factor of at least 10. Merging the latest in technology with old-fashioned shoe leather, Democrats not only met, but surpassed, their vote total targets in key states such as Ohio and Florida. With voter turnout unexpectedly climbing from 105 million in 2000 to 119 million in 2004 and a parallel effort by the GOP that took them to startling heights of organization as well, the Democratic GOTV operation was not quite good enough to win, but it was awfully close."

15 Things to do at Wal-Mart while your spouse/partner is taking their sweet time

1. Get 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in peoples carts when they aren't looking.
2. Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.
3. Make a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading to the rest rooms.
4. Walk up to an employee and tell him/her in an official tone, 'Code 3 in housewares..... and see what happens.
5. Go the Service Desk and ask to put a bag of M&M's on lay away.
6. Move a 'CAUTION - WET FLOOR' sign to a carpeted area.
7. Set up a tent in the camping department and tell other shoppers you'll invite them in if they'll bring pillows from the bedding department.
8. When a clerk asks if they can help you, begin to cry and ask 'Why can't you people just leave me alone?'
9. Look right into the security camera; use it as a mirror, and pick your nose.
10. While handling guns in the hunting department, ask the clerk if he knows where the anti- depressants are.
11. Dart around the store suspiciously loudly humming the "Mission Impossible" theme.
12. In the auto department, practice your "Madonna look" using different size funnels.
13. Hide in a clothing rack and when people browse through, say "! PICK ME!" "PICK ME!"
14. When an announcement comes over the loud speaker, assume the fetal position and scream "NO! NO! It's those voices again!!!!"
15 Go into a fitting room and shut the door and wait a while; and, then, yell, very loudly, "There is no toilet paper in here!"

OK, It's A Litte Dated

"Free speech exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free."
Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

"The truth is found when men are free to pursue it."
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936

"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." George Orwell, 1945

"Any time we deny any citizen the full exercise of his constitutional rights, we are weakening our own claim to them."
Dwight David Eisenhower, 1963

"What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant."
Robert F. Kennedy, 1964

"Go fuck yourself."
Dick Cheney, 2004

Lexy Con

The next time you're washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be....

Here are some facts about the 1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women, and finally the children -- last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Houses had thatched roofs (thick straw piled high), with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house, which posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway. Hence the saying a "thresh hold."

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat."

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake."

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out 5 of coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Absent Without Leave of Senses

I haven't written anything for a while. as you may have noticed. Since the aftermath of that calamitous election, the road to sanity has been to not read the usual online barrage of progressive angst. On one hand, seems like writing might have been a productive way to vent some of that angst, but I needed to take a break. Ohio, count me out.

I've certainly been keeping up with the news, and the daily outrages of this administration and it's reactionary impact on the socio-cultural American gestalt continue unabashed, unaplogetic and unabated. The attacks on our 200 year old yet fledgling democacy have been executed with ever more arrogance from Capital Hill as well as the White House--no surprise there, of course. They do believe they have a mandate, to go along with all the power they've usurped or stolen over the last 30 years. Never ones to let facts stand in the way of a good opinion, they have upped the pace and will continue to dismantle 60 years of progressive social advancement on every front as fast as their two right feet can carry them. It's just too enervating. I need a nap and a great big bag of Valium.

And except for Ted Kennedy's urging today for the party to return to its progressive roots and Barbara Boxer's courageous stand against certifying the Ohio electoral vote, pretty much the rest of the Democrats seem to be stuck in some wimp timebandits wormhole of centrism. Even Howard Dean, though never a flaming prog regardless of reputation, acknowledged acceptance of anti-choice leadership on his side of the aisle. Something about a big tent. Familiar phrase, that. It was nauseating when the neocons used it pre-convention, but somehow the Democratic party trying to win a broader appeal by courting anti-choice ignocrats is, well, unseemly. And, may I say, yucky. Remember moderate or liberal Republicans? Now pretty much extinct, their legacy remains in the DLC. Ol' Ralphie Boy was right. He was an asshole and megalomaniac, of course, but it's hard to argue with his main premises--except that one about no difference between Bush and Gore, oh that was really dumb.

So I've been quiescently frozen of late, but like one of those succulent orange treats on a stick away from its freon nest, I'm melting too.

So fie on the valium, and bring on the crank. It's time to get this horse back in the race. I'm going to cram in as many angry sarcastic diatribes as ever, along with every cliche ever written and some of the most godawful puns my evershrinking frontal lobes can pustulate--er, postulate

It's my job, after all. If I have to have one.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Clean up formatting in emails you want to forward

This amazing little tool will strip emails of all those <, indents, blank lines, and word or line breaks that makes some much-forwarded emails hard to read.

I would be proud to say that I wrote the following paragraph but I didn't.

I would be proud to say that I wrote the following essay, but I didn't. I understand that credit goes to a woman in Cleveland whom I never met. It captures better than I have been able my feelings and views about the election.

It would be difficult to fully communicate my disappointment in a simple email. On the other hand, slipping out into the hall and drowning myself in the mop bucket would mean that someone else would have to feed my dog.

The American people have spoken, and they have sent the world a message: "We're barely bright enough to chew our own food."

Incompetence, incoherence, inarticulateness, pettiness and random savagery apparently do not deter the majority of Americans. The thing that really, REALLY matters to Americans? Homos. And foreigners. Both must be stopped at any cost.

Americans voted overwhelmingly in favor of bigotry, amending state constitutions around the country to prevent same-sex couples from having any rights beyond the right to live on the margins of society. We clearly have far more to fear from The International Homosexual Conspiracy(tm) than we do from North Korea and the collapse of the American health care system.

Apparently, we are truly a nation of slackjawed yokels, awed only by grotesque displays of wealth and violence, reverent only of the bossman and beholden not even to our children, since we seem content to mortgage their future in favor of a $300 tax refund that we have traded for decent jobs, healthcare, and a just society.

We make pious noises about worshipping a Just and Merciful God, while doling out destruction and horror upon the innocent, pausing only to pat ourselves on the back for waging a "just" war to rid the world of tyrants that audaciously aspire to exist after they lose their utility to us in endless low-level conflicts to control the world's oil supply.

We seem to have become cheap, venal, vulgar and petty while we apparently don't have the ability to reason our way out of the dilemma of taking care of the sick, watching out for the elderly, and teaching our children not to be credulous, callow dupes.

To my friends from the UK, France and anyone to whom they choose to forward this, I feel that I owe you an apology. It is as if I have brought an orangutan to high tea. While he flings shit at you and tries to snatch pastries from your plate, I am left wondering how I might make it up to you.

The world's richest and most powerful nation seems to have lost its moral compass. We have lost interest in leading by example in favor of taking by force. I would like to say that I believe that one day in the future America might regain its senses. Unfortunately, I am not terribly optimistic. The best I can offer you is to remind you that Nixon also won a second term.

CON SESSION SPEECH: From The Wish I'd Said That Department

 Adam Felber is a comedian who often appears on NPR's "Wait, Wait,Don't Tell Me" quiz show. This was posted on his blog. Did you notice his candidacy?  Well, here's his concession speech.  

Former candidate Felber, flanked by his family and supporters, steps up to the podium in the bright autumn sunlight. Cheers and applause are heard.

My fellow Americans, the people of this nation have spoken, and spoken with a clear voice. So I am here to offer my concession. [Boos, groans, rending of garments]

I concede that I overestimated the intelligence of the American people. Though the people disagree with the President on almost every issue, you saw fit to vote for him. I never saw that coming. That's really special. And I mean "special" in the sense that we use it to describe those kids who ride the short school bus and find ways to injure themselves while eating pudding with rubber spoons. That kind of special.

I concede that I misjudged the power of hate. That's pretty powerful stuff, and I didn't see it. So let me take a moment to congratulate the President's strategists: Putting the gay marriage amendments on the ballot in various swing states like Ohio... well, that was just genius. Genius. It got people, a certain kind of people, to the polls. The unprecedented number of folks who showed up and cited "moral values" as their biggest issue, those people changed history. The folks who consider same sex marriage a more important issue than war, or terrorism, or the economy... Who'd have thought the election would belong to them? Well, Karl Rove did. Gotta give it up to him for that. [Boos.] Now, now. Credit where it's due.

I concede that I put too much faith in America's youth. With 8 out of 10 of you opposing the President, with your friends and classmates dying daily in a war you disapprove of, with your future being mortgaged to pay for rich old peoples' tax breaks, you somehow managed to sit on your asses and watch the Cartoon Network while aging homophobic hillbillies carried the day. You voted with the exact same anemic percentage that you did in 2000. You suck. Seriously, y'do. [Cheers, applause] Thank you. Thank you very much.

There are some who would say that I sound bitter, that now is the time for healing, to bring the nation together. Let me tell you a little story. Last night, I watched the returns come in with some friends here in Los Angeles. As the night progressed, people began to talk half-seriously about secession, a red state / blue state split. The reasoning was this: We in blue states produce the vast majority of the wealth in this country and pay the most taxes, and you in the red states receive the majority of the money from those taxes while complaining about 'em. We in the blue states are the only ones who've been attacked by foreign terrorists, yet you in the red states are gung ho to fight a war in our name. We in the blue states produce the entertainment that you consume so greedily each day, while you in the red states show open disdain for us and our values. Blue state civilians are the actual victims and targets of the war on terror, while red state civilians are the ones standing behind us and yelling "Oh, yeah!? Bring it on!"

More than 40% of you Bush voters still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. I'm impressed by that, truly I am. Your sons and daughters who might die in this war know it's not true, the people in the urban centers where al Qaeda wants to attack know it's not true, but those of you who are at practically no risk believe this easy lie because you can. As part of my concession speech, let me say that I really envy that luxury. I concede that.

Healing? We, the people at risk from terrorists, the people who subsidize you, the people who speak in glowing and respectful terms about the heartland of America while that heartland insults and excoriates us... we wanted some healing. We spoke loud and clear. And you refused to give it to us, largely because of your high moral values. You knew better: America doesn't need its allies, doesn't need to share the burden, doesn't need to unite the world, doesn't need to provide for its future. Hell no. Not when it's got a human shield of pointy-headed, atheistic, unconfrontational breadwinners who are willing to pay the bills and play nice in the vain hope of winning a vote that we can never have. Because we're "morally inferior," I suppose, we are supposed to respect your values while you insult ours. And the big joke here is that for 20 years, we've done just that.

It's not a "ha-ha" funny joke, I realize, but it's a joke all the same.

Being an independent candidate gives me one luxury - as well as conceding the election today, I am also announcing my candidacy for President in 2008. [Wild applause, screams, chants of "Fel-ber! Fel-ber!] Thank you.

And I make this pledge to you today: THIS time, next time, there will be no pandering. This time I will run with all the open and joking contempt for my opponents that our President demonstrated towards the cradle of liberty, the Ivy League intellectuals, the "media elite," and the "white-wine sippers." This time I will not pretend that the simple folk of America know just as much as the people who devote their lives to serving and studying the nation and the world. They don't.

So that's why I'm asking for your vote in 2008, America. I'm talking to you, you ignorant, slack-jawed yokels, you bible-thumping, inbred drones, you redneck, racist, chest-thumping, perennially duped grade-school grads. Vote for me, because I know better, and I truly believe that I can help your smug, sorry asses. Vote Felber in '08! Thank you, and may God, if he does in fact exist, bless each and every one of you.

[Tumultuous cheers, applause, and foot-stomping. PULL BACK to reveal the rest of the stage, the row of cameras, hundreds of unoccupied chairs, and the empty field beyond.]

Posted by Adam Felber at November 3, 2004 02:43 PM | TrackBack