Friday, May 22, 2015

Breaking (Old) News: Bush and Cheney Lied us into Iraq.

In a startling conversation on Tuesday--three days ago by my calendar, not that you would know it by the mainstream media coverage--Chris Matthews, bless his passionate, irritating bulldoggedness, pulled the truth out of Michael Morell, George Bush's CIA intelligence briefer during the lead-up to the Iraq war: the Bush White House lied about WMDs in order to get us into a war with Iraq.

It was not bad intelligence, as every Republican alive in Washington--and some Democrats--still keep repeating. The intelligence that there were no WMDs was, in fact, presented to the decision-makers, and the decision-makers--Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld,Wolfowitz, Rice, and so on--lied and said their experts were telling them otherwise. That was in 2003.  This is 2015.  For 12 years most of the people in the loop who know the truth have kept it hidden.  They've said nothing.

There are exceptions:  Richard Clarke, GWB's former counterterrorism coordinator, appeared on PBS' Frontline in 2006 and, in an interview riddled with bombshells, dropped this one, which, along with the others, sadly but predictably didn't detonate:
"Yes, the intelligence community made mistakes in erring in the direction of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. But the president, the vice president, the national security adviser, they went a lot further in their public remarks than the intelligence analysis had gone.
There's nowhere in the intelligence analysis that says there's imminent threat and that we have to do something right away. Yet the president, the vice president, the national security adviser all tell the public, tell the Congress: 'Got to act right away! Something's about to happen!'"
In that same interview he said this:
"I remember vividly, in the driveway outside of the West Wing, Scooter Libby, from the vice president's office, grabbing me and saying, 'I hear you don't believe this report that Mohamed Atta was talking to Iraqi people in Prague.' I said, 'I don't believe it because it's not true.' And he said: 'You're wrong. You know you're wrong. Go back and find out; look at the rest of the reports, and find out that you're wrong.' I understood what he was saying, which was: 'This is a report that we want to believe, and stop saying it's not true. It's a real problem for the vice president's office that you, the counterterrorism coordinator, are walking around saying that this isn't a true report. Shut up!' That's what I was being told."
Immediately afterward, the White House attack machines went after Richard Clarke, trying to make him out to be the liar and not the other way around.  Poor Richard. He's still trying to tell the truth about what he and others knew then, but preaching to the choir has its limitations.  A whole lot of tsk-tsking goes on but nothing really gets done. The Bush/Cheney gang still runs free.  Cheney, the man we'll always believe was the oily kingpin behind the whole operation, is so unafraid of consequences he still rambles on publicly about the benefits of torture against our supposed enemies.

Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's right-hand-man during his tenure as Secretary of State, rails against the Iraq warmongers every chance he gets, admitting that both he and Powell got sucked in by them, but he stops just short of calling the misinformation falsehoods.
"It's a mess, to be sure," Wilkerson says, "a mess we largely created -- 'we' being George Bush and Dick Cheney and all their minions, myself and Powell included, however reluctantly. I'm fairly certain that no one knows now how to extricate us from that mess. So, most do not want to have that ignorance exposed."

They were lies, Larry.  Lies.

Why Michael Morell decided to play Hardball with Matthews (besides hawking his new book) is something only Morell knows, but once he got there it was Katie bar the door! Matthews was gunning for him.  From David Corn in Mother Jones:
MATTHEWS: So you're briefing the president on the reasons for war, they're selling the war, using your stuff, saying you made that case when you didn't. So they're using your credibility to make the case for war dishonestly, as you just admitted.
MORELL: Look, I'm just telling you—
MATTHEWS: You just admitted it.
MORELL: I'm just telling you what we said—
MATTHEWS: They gave a false presentation of what you said to them.
MORELL: On some aspects. On some aspects.
"That's a big deal," Matthews exclaimed. Morell replied, "It's a big deal."

Soon after the attack on 9/11 the White House began diverting our attention from Afghanistan to Iraq.  It was such a crazy idea nobody believed anything would ever come of it.  The craziest part was that the press--the guardians of truth, the defenders of liberty--walked away from their duties and went AWOL. 

It wasn't because the hawks were itching to get into battle--the war against Al Qaeda was legitimate; it was justified. We as a nation knew who the enemy was.  We understood the need.  We never intended to send our sons and daughters to a battleground that didn't involve a real enemy, yet we did just that, and nearly 4500 of them didn't come home.  Another 32,000 suffered injuries; lost their limbs, their eyes, and, too often, the part of them that allows them peace.

As Andy Borowitz said yesterday on his Facebook page, "No one could have known that invading Iraq would be a disaster, unless you count the millions of people who protested against it."  Our protests were ignored.  That war was an unnecessary disaster and we know who to blame, but the time for inquiries is apparently over.  There are no planned hearings on the responsibility for the Iraq War, even though we're faced every day with the consequences of a murderous, trillion-dollar war built on lies.

Contrast that with the Republicans' need to know what happened in Benghazi, when our embassy was attacked and four Americans were killed under then-Secretary-of-State Hillary Clinton's watch. So far the Republicans have held 13 hearings, 50 briefings, and have produced 25,000 document pages on the events surrounding the attack.  The blame rests on Clinton's shoulders and to their minds she has much to answer for.  She'll be required to answer to them at least until November, 2016, when the next presidential election is held.  If she wins that election, she'll be required to answer for Benghazi until 2020, assuming she'll decide to run again.  If she wins that election, Benghazi will be her ball and chain until Hell freezes over.

But Dick Cheney and George W. Bush have nothing to fear, nothing to answer for.  Dick Cheney can appear on dozens of political programs and slake his thirst for war and profit, his hatred for our current president, his disdain for Democrats in general, without a care in the world about the misery his own recklessness has caused.

A furious Chris Matthews left Michael Morell with this thought:
Let me explain to you my position as an American. and why this infuriates me.  I knew people in this business who were very objective people who finally went for the war--and we were arguing about it here--because they believed Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear weapons. And you couldn't argue with that once you believed that this final piece of the sales pitch is what did it.  And to know, and now hear it from you, that that wasn't based on fact or any evidence or any intel--that it was just made up--that's the case for why I'm so angry about that war. . . I think we got talked into a war by people who weren't being honest.
We didn't get talked into that war, Chris  We knew all along it was a dishonest pitch made by dishonest people. Those who could have done something at the time didn't fight hard enough to stop them. Without the press, without members of congress, without the movers and shakers, the millions of us who protested were whispering in the wind.  There is plenty of blame to go around but the blame lies squarely on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

The least we can do for the Iraq war casualties, both foreign and domestic, is to keep this alive:  We went into a war based on deliberate lies. The perpetrators walk among us without fear, but we know.  We can't forget.  We won't forget.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Liberaland. Featured on Crooks and Liars MBRU)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

William Zinsser: Writing Well Is The Best Legacy

I came to what I call professional writing fairly late.  I didn't take it seriously until real life eased enough for me to give some attention to what I might want to do with the rest of my days.
After dabbling in every artistic expression of my day--needlework, crochet, macrame, pottery, ceramics, drawing in charcoal and pastels, painting in oils, acrylics, and watercolor--none of which I did well--I finally realized that my early love, writing, was the creative outlet I had been looking for all along.
I joined a local writing group and there I found William Zinsser, their anointed guru.  They couldn't stop talking about his book, On Writing Well.  It was their bible and I, more interested in hamper-free, no-rules writing, was having none of it.  I didn't want to be told how to write, I wanted to be told I wrote well, even when I didn't.  That was the whole point of joining a writing group.  Or so I thought at the time.
Zinsser, when I finally opened up to him, taught me otherwise.  Good writing takes skill.  There is no easy way to acquire it and the sooner the novice realizes it, the easier it is to look at the beginnings as school--lessons, grades, apprenticeships.  And then you go to work, where you find that you don't know everything after all, and that, as in any other profession, the learning never stops.
I'm still a dummy when it comes to grammar and sentence structure.  I'm always imagining the "Oh, God, no" reactions from the more knowledgeable people who take on the task of reading what I write.  I don't always get it--what can I say?  But William Zinsser gave me the reasons to write. Yes, he was a stickler for grammar and sentence structure, but his main focus was not so much on doing it right as on doing it well.
In honor of his life and skills, in sadness at his passing, here are a few passages from "On Writing Well" (Fifth Edition):
Trust your material if it's taking you into unknown terrain you didn't intend to enter but the vibrations are good.  Adjust your style and your mood accordingly and proceed to whatever destination you reach.  Don't ever become the prisoner of a preconceived plan.  Writing is no respecter of blueprints--it's too subjective a process, too full of surprises.
Writing is hard work.  A clear sentence is no accident.  Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time.  Remember this in moments of despair.  If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard.  It's one of the hardest things people do.
The good writer of prose must be part poet, always listening to what he writes.  E.B White continues to be my favorite stylist because I'm conscious of being with a man who cares about the cadences and sonorities of the language.  I relish (in my ear) the pattern his words make as they fall into a sentence.  I try to surmise how in rewriting the sentence he reassembled it to the end with a phrase that will momentarily linger, or how he chose one word over another because he was after a certain emotional weight.  It's the difference between say, "serene" and "tranquil"--one so soft, the other strangely disturbing because of the unusual n and q
Writing is not a contest.  Every writer is starting from a different point and is bound for a different destination. Yet many writers are paralyzed by the thought that they are competing with everyone else who is trying to write and presumably doing it better.
Decide what you want to do.  Then decide to do it.  Then do it.
Mr. Zinsser, I wish I had said this before, but you'll understand if I feel the need to say it now.
Thank you. It didn't always take (living proof), but you gave it your best.  You never stopped trying.  And that's what counts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sarah Palin: Out. Carly Fiorina: In

In 2007, the story goes, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and a few GOP movers and shakers went on a cruise to Alaska  and met a certain Sarah Palin, then-governor of that great state.  It's safe to say she knocked Kristol's socks off (and his head cockeyed, though he didn't know it at the time).

The word is that Kristol fell head over heels--as much as a Republican operative can--for the sassy, smart-assy former cheerleader and did a little cheer-leading of his own.  This woman, he told anyone who would listen, will be the next Vice President of the United States!  It seemed a simple matter (maybe not to you and me. . .) and somehow they convinced John McCain, the then-presidential candidate, that if a woman would be a good choice, this woman would be spectacular!

And so it went.  McCain didn't become president and Palin didn't become vice-president, but that didn't mean Sarah Palin would just fade away.  No, indeedy.  She's still around, still giving rah-rah speeches, still going for the anti-liberal, anti-Obama laughs.  But nobody is looking to her to be the first female to sit behind the Oval Office desk.  Not anymore.  She has a semi-permanent role as the gal who dishes the diss and keeps 'em rolling in the aisles.  She never wanted to be a politician anyway.  No big bucks in it and besides that, it's work!  (For further discussion, see Game Change.)

For several years post-Palin, there were no other GOP women who showed even the slightest interest in running the country. Then along comes Carly Fiorina, with no political experience save for a couple of CPAC appearances, and it's look out, Hillary!

Carly's best CPAC line about the former U.S Secretary of State:
"Like Hillary Clinton, I too have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe, but unlike her, I have actually accomplished something. Mrs. Clinton, flying is not an accomplishment, it’s an activity. I have met Vladimir Putin and know that it will take more to halt his ambitions than a gimmicky red ‘Reset’ button."

I love watching Carly Fiorina put on her haughty face, purse her lemony lips and smile her regal smile.  I love the "air quotes" thing.  I love it when she uses her I-mean-business voice to tell us why she would make the best president of the United States of Corporate America.

 Carly has given a lot of thought to what works best when a woman goes after the highest job in the land.  First of all, forget she's a woman.  Well, not totally.  It would be cool to be the first woman president!  If you must, think tough hard-knocks broad who can slam-bang with the best of them.Take no prisoners!  Get it done!  Enough with those liberals!  They'll be the ruination of us all! (Carly to her cohorts:  Honestly, don't they want us to own this country?)

Consider her thoughts on the California drought crisis:
Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett Packard CEO, failed 2010 GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, and friend of the fossil fuel industry. . .who is considering a presidential bid, told Glenn Beck that the California drought is a “man-made disaster.” And by man-made she means it has been caused by “liberal environmentalists” who have prevented the state from building the appropriate reservoirs and other water infrastructure.
“In California, fish and frogs and flies are really important,” she said. ” … California is a classic case of liberals being willing to sacrifice other people’s lives and livelihoods at the altar of their ideology.
Says the same presidential candidate who called off-shoring "right-shoring"; the same candidate who bragged about moving parts of Hewlett-Packard out of the country in order to avoid having to pay high taxes here; the same candidate who micromanaged the lay-offs of some 30,000 workers, sending most of their jobs overseas, labeling the move "streamlining".  The same candidate who was fired from said job for questionable practices and for losing the company, and thus the stockholders, tons of money.  ("Not so," says Carly.  But who you gonna trust?)

Carly is all business.  She sees that as a good thing.  Our political system is too full of politicians, she says.  What we need is a female president who understands management, who understands technology.  Carly says she does. (She's against net neutrality--something 80% of Americans are for.) What we need, she says, is a female president who isn't Hillary Clinton.  Don't get Carly wrong; Hillary has given her life to her work. She's just. . .

  "Hillary Clinton must not be president of the United States, but not because she's a woman. Hillary Clinton must not be president of the United States because she is not trustworthy."



But, aside from building businesses by quashing government interference, what does Carly have in mind for her presidency, should she, um, win?  I think she's probably pretty smart.  (That's a plus when you want to be president, but it's not a qualification written in stone.) I'm pretty sure she knows she won't just be the CEO of a company, she'll be the CEO of the whole damn United States.  Of America.  That's--count 'em--50 states.  Big ones.  Lots of people. 

She must have thought beyond just being the anti-Hillary, as she's depicted (and as she no doubt relishes), but has she thought beyond being the CEO? There is a whole contingency (almost everybody) who think Carly made a lousy CEO while at HP, but Carly isn't one of them.

In her announcement video, she makes no mention of her qualifications (showing she has a sweet side), and to her credit she left out the Demon Sheep. (She lost to California Senator Barbara Boxer in 2010--by 10 points--thereby giving rise to the notion that it might take more than a phony red-eyed sheep to pull the wool over some peoples' eyes.)  But Carly thought the sheep ad was a good one.  "Some people thought it was funny," she said.

Well,  yeah, we all thought it was funny.  But was it wise?

But never mind. Carly says it might have looked like she lost big time but, in fact, she only slightly lost because in the primaries she outshone every other GOP hopeful.  She won the primary.  She WON.  The primary.)

Despite the high marks she gives herself, Carly Fiorina will not be the next president of the United States.  Carly knows that as well as I do, but what I'm seeing from Carly is a much bigger ambition:  She really, truly wants to knock that ditzy Sarah Palin off her high horse, climb onto that bejeweled saddle, and be The Witty Smart Spokeswoman for The New GOP.

Good luck with that, Carly.  But hang around for awhile, won't you, honey?  Strictly for laughs, of course.  You make it hard for us to take you seriously.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog, Liberaland, and FreakOutNation. Featured at Crooks and Liars MBRU)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

No Excuses: Angry Thugs and Looters are Still Thugs and Looters

I know you might hate this, but I'm going to do it anyway.  I'm going to write this as a mother, as a grandmother, as a card-carrying citizen of the United States, as a goddamned human being.

I'm white, but if you dare hold that against me you're no better than those who hold color against anyone.  We're going to talk about those stupid vandals who rampaged through their own Baltimore neighborhood the night before last, looting, burning, destroying nearly everything in sight.  They were black kids and they used the funeral of a young black man as an excuse to raise so much hell we'll be adding Baltimore once again to the list of the worst riots in the U.S.

So far, as of this writing, there have been no reported deaths--thank the light above for small favors.  But vicious, creepy thugs willfully savaged an entire neighborhood, and I submit the only thing poor Freddie Gray's funeral had to do with it was opportunity.  It was their big chance to blaze their way in, using righteous protest as a flimsy excuse to riot.

Rumor has it that they were mainly teenagers, that they used social media to get the word out, that a movie fueled their fervor for vengeance.  There are reports that the police themselves showed up at the school campus in riot gear and wouldn't let the kids get to their buses to go home.  They went to the neighborhood instead.

Some of the people who have lived through the cop-on-black violence in West Baltimore abhorred the rioting but tried to find ways to explain it beyond simple vandalism.  TaNehisi Coates knows the area and the police activities well.  He writes:
When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise." Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.
 But it wasn't just the police and the politicians pleading for nonviolence.  Freddie Gray's family begged for it.  The preachers in the community prayed for it.  Neighborhood families hoped against hope for it.

If the thugs had stuck with setting police cars afire, with throwing bricks at police officers, I might have understood, but still not condoned, that kind of disrespect.  They see the police as the enemy. But they didn't stop there.  They didn't even start there.  Their intent was to riot.  To disrespect the community.

 For 48 hours, since the riot began, we've heard non-stop talk about the reasons why.  I won't go into all of them, except to say that the Baltimore police are known pigs who seem to thrive on punishing black people, and Freddie Gray, the young man who didn't deserve to die at their hands, did die at their hands.  Horribly.  They broke his spine, curled him up into a ball and stuffed him into their paddy wagon.  They ignored his need for immediate medical care. He died in their care and nobody but him has so far paid the price.

If I lived in that neighborhood and knew what I knew about the police and about this case and about the hundreds of other cases where justice was as cruelly denied, I would want someone's hide.  Not literally, of course, but I would want retribution.  I would want somebody to pay.  I would protest.  Loudly.  I would not shut up.  I would be just like the thousands of people in that neighborhood who finally have had enough and want something done now. But I, along with those thousands of others, would have respected Freddie Gray's grieving family enough to grant their wish for peaceful protest.

Freddie Gray's funeral sparked the riots, even though his parents and his twin sister begged for peace.  Begged for it.  Said it out loud many times:  "Please.  No violence.  Please."

But within hours of Freddie's funeral the mourners' remembrances of the slain young man took a back seat to the nightmarish witnessing of a full-blown incendiary riot.

The rioters (do not call them protesters) busted out windows and doors of small businesses, made off with the goods inside, and looted and vandalized a CVS drug store.  They commandeered a police car, severely injured the occupants, and set the car on fire. They rampaged through a liquor store and a check-cashing store. The CVS went up in flames. More cars burned. Then more buildings. Through the night, fires roared.

And--get this--when the fire truck arrived to put out the fires in this neighborhood where families live, one of the punks pulled out a knife and spiked the hose. Twice. The water meant to put out the fire spewed like a swell fountain into the air, far from its directed target.  I'm guessing the punks around him thought it was pretty cool, too.  Nobody--I mean nobody--said, "Uh, not the fire hoses, idiot."

Yesterday the community came together to clean up their streets.  Mothers, fathers, small children.  The elders.  They're trying to put their lives back together again. They're heartbroken.  They're ashamed.  They're angry.  They know how this will look.  NBC news correspondent Rehema Elllis reported that she saw women standing in front of the burned-out CVS store weeping--weeping--because they spent years trying to get a pharmacy to put down roots in their neighborhood. What are the odds that CVS--or any pharmacy--will build there again?

This is the harm that riots do.  Riots aren't protests. There is no good outcome from riots.  They're remembered into eternity as the crazed response to a bad situation, and when it happens in a black community it's the black community that has to answer for it.  The thugs, the vandals, the looters need to get that message.  Making excuses for their criminal behavior doesn't just let them off the hook, it gives them license to keep their destructive anger alive.

Toya Graham, the mother who whupped her son in front of the cameras yesterday to keep him from joining the looters showed us the way well-placed anger wins the day. Her raw desperation, hard as it is to watch, is about as heroic as it gets.
"'That's my only son and at the end of the day I don't want him to be a Freddie Gray'. . .
 'Graham says after she got her son home they both watched news coverage of the demonstrations and riots on television. As images of her reaction started to go viral, Graham says comments started appearing on her son's Facebook page, many in support of her.
'Friends and everybody making comments and saying you know, you shouldn't be mad at your mother, you should give her a hug,' said Graham.  [She] hopes the incident will serve as a teachable moment for her son."

Thugs will be thugs and to hell with them.  They almost destroyed this community.  Almost.  But the beauty of it, if there is such a thing, is that the people who live there aren't about to let them.  If something positive finally gets done in the community of West Baltimore, don't thank the rioters, thank the people in the neighborhoods who, in spite of the destruction, choose to rise from the ashes and work to build anew.

Addendum 4/30/15.  Since I published this yesterday I'm getting all kinds of flak about the use of the word "thug".  Yes, I must be living in a cave because I had no idea that word was now seen as some sort of code word for "black".  "Thug" is a word that has been around for over a century and is used appropriately to describe troublemakers.  There has never been a hint of color attached to it that I know of, and it's not my intent--or the President's, I'm sure--to offend anybody but the looters.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Liberaland.  Featured on Crooks and Liars MBRU))

Sunday, April 12, 2015

As Long as There is a Constitution, The GOP Can't Win

It's been a while, but here I am.  Illnesses and the vagaries of the gypsy life have taken a toll, frazzled my brain, and, if you can believe it, have led me to thinking about things other than the state of the nation.  During my enforced R&R I read a few novels, watched a few movies, spent time with friends, marveled at scenery, and all-around de-fragged.  I hung around on the edges of the political debates, but found myself thinking the unthinkable:  "Who cares?"

Now I'm back.

So. . .

What the devil has gotten into those Republicans?  Are there no grownups left in that party? It's as if, this past January, they all just got out of juvie, where they were plotting their mischief, and now's the time to put their malicious but childishly goofy plans into action.

They're fussing about bakers having to bake cakes for gay weddings, or, worse, cater the damn things.  Entire Republican-oriented states are busy working up laws that'll put a stop to it without looking like they're trying to put a stop to it, because, you know. . .discrimination.     It's all the media talked about for days.  As if the future of our country rested on whether or not gays are entitled to food or dry goods sold by, you know, Christians.

(About those Religious Freedom Restoration Acts:  Presumably they mean restoring religious freedoms to those given the Pilgrims before they fled Britain's shores and headed for what would become the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Because who has more religious freedom than Americans?)

Meanwhile, the latest polls show more Americans (many, many, many of them Christians) favor gay marriage than don't.  It's getting to the point where, one of these days, the mainstream media might have to recognize a dead issue when they see it and stop pandering to the bigots for stories that bring the greatest ratings.

And speaking of great, the great state of Tennessee is moving toward making the Bible the State Book.  (What is a State Book, you ask?  It's a book any state designates as a State Book.  Notice the caps. That makes it official.)  The closest I could come to finding other state books is a whimsical, non-binding list Kristen Iversen put together for Brooklyn Magazine last October.  Interesting selections--so interesting I forgot I was writing a blog and spent an hour over there, mulling them over, looking some of them up, arguing against some choices and cheering others on.  (Eudora Welty would have been a good choice for Mississippi, and Garrison Keillor for Minnesota, but in Michigan, my Michigan, it's Elmore Leonard all the way.  And what's with New York City having a place of its own among the states?)

As wonderful as some of those books might be, none of them is on a scale with The Bible.  No getting away from it, The Bible is a Big Book in some circles.  It's been at the top of the best seller lists for so long it's no longer even listed.  But we know it's there.  (Brooklyn Mag's choice for Tennessee, by the way, is Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God."  Gives you chills, doesn't it?)   But good luck, Tennessee.  (You do realize you're a state and not the protestant equivalent of the Vatican, right?)  By the way, Mississippi is thinking about it, and Louisiana gave this same thing some thought last year and then scrapped the whole idea.  But don't let that stop you.  Please.

Food stamps are a big issue these days.  According to the Republicans, nobody should be on food stamps, but since they can't stop it entirely, the next best thing is to shame the recipients into dropping out voluntarily.  Turn the masses against them.  Make them grovel for what little they get.  Pretend they're using it for lobster and filet mignon and Haagen Daz.  But understand this:  Since children should be unseen and unheard, except for those in the womb, tightening the food stamp belt will have no affect on the little kiddies.  None.  None at all.

To this new and nasty bunch of GOPers, welfare and Medicaid are tools of the devil, causing huge deficits in our coffers because the poor would rather live off the taxpayer's teat than work at any kind of job.  (What?  What's that you say?  Some people on welfare and Medicaid are working? At jobs?  I can't HEAR you!)

As Dana Milbank wrote in The Rush To Humiliate The Poor:
Last week, the Kansas legislature passed House Bill 2258, punishing the poor by limiting their cash withdrawals of welfare benefits to $25 per day and forbidding them to use their benefits “in any retail liquor store, casino, gaming establishment, jewelry store, tattoo parlor, massage parlor, body piercing parlor, spa, nail salon, lingerie shop, tobacco paraphernalia store, vapor cigarette store, psychic or fortune telling business, bail bond company, video arcade, movie theater, swimming pool, cruise ship, theme park, dog or horse racing facility, pari-mutuel facility, or sexually oriented business . . . or in any business or retail establishment where minors under age 18 are not permitted.”

The Kansas legislators must be pleased that they have protected their swimming pools from those nasty welfare recipients. But the gratuitous nature of the law becomes obvious when you consider that it also bans all out-of-state spending of welfare dollars — so the inclusion of a cruise-ship ban is redundant in landlocked Kansas.
Now we're hearing that some states are officially banning climate change talk in any state agency having to do with the environment where they might, on the off-chance, find themselves discussing that sort of thing.  They're not even making it a secret.  It's as if they don't know it's something no normal government body would do.  It's as if they think nobody has ever heard of their sugar daddies, the Koch brothers, and their vested interests in the fossil fuel industries. (I wonder what happens to anyone who defies that ban?  Boiled in oil?  Stretched on a rack? Tongues cut out?)

Oh, there's more.  Of course there's more.  Misogyny, racism, collusion, corruption, adultery, Downton Abbey. . .it never ends.  But what might save us is not the Good Book but our country's most important document.  As Thom Hartmann reminds us in a brilliant article called Why the Right Hates American History, our rights are, in fact, inalienable, not because we're Americans or Oklahomans or Kansans or Michiganders, but because we're humans:
The simple reality is that there are many “rights” that are not specified in the Constitution, but which we daily enjoy and cannot be taken away from us by the government. But if that’s the case. . .why doesn’t the Constitution list those rights in the Bill of Rights?

If you know your history, you know that the reason is simple: the Constitution wasn’t written as a vehicle to grant us rights. We don’t derive our rights from the constitution.

Rather, in the minds of the Founders, human rights are inalienable—inseparable—from humans themselves. We are born with rights by simple fact of existence, as defined by John Locke and written by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” the Founders wrote.

Humans are “endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights….” These rights are clear and obvious, the Founders repeatedly said. They belong to us from birth, as opposed to something the Constitution must hand to us, and are more ancient than any government.

The job of the Constitution was to define a legal framework within which government and business could operate in a manner least intrusive to “We, The People,” who are the holders of the rights. In its first draft it didn’t even have a Bill of Rights, because the Framers felt it wasn’t necessary to state out loud that human rights came from something greater, larger, and older than government. They all knew this; it was simply obvious.
Thomas Jefferson, however, foreseeing a time when the concepts fundamental to the founding of America were forgotten, strongly argued that the Constitution must contain at least a rudimentary statement of rights, laying out those main areas where government could, at the minimum, never intrude into our lives.
We can't stop now.  I can't stop now. Not as long as the Republicans insist on doing their nasty work out in the open, for everyone to see. They're trying to create a new and terrible normal, using dirty money given to them by people who seek to profit by bringing our country down.

Hands on the Constitution, by the power vested in us, we cannot let it happen.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Alan Colmes' Liberaland)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Christian Guy talks up rape and murder of Atheist Wives and Daughters at Prayer Breakfast. More Coffee, Anyone?

Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynasty actor and self- professed loyal follower of Jesus Christ, Son of God--the same guy who's been in trouble before for saying bad stuff he heard straight from God's mouth--had this to say at a prayer breakfast the other day:
"I’ll make a bet with you. Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’ "
The audience cheered, applauded and laughed.  YaHOO!  Those good ol' boys was havin' them some fun.  Nothin' wrong with a good old fashioned poke at them godless ones. . .  Let 'em know what worthless POS they are.  Just doin' God's work. . .

You're thinking since I'm as close to a non-theist as it gets without making a formal announcement, and a woman besides, I should be so offended I can't stop bawling my eyes out over this. 

You're thinking this is going to be a rant against Phil Robertson and all those fundamentalist Old Testament phonies who get their pants in a big old bulge by fantasizing about wicked sexual stuff being done to helpless women.

You're thinking I'm thinking that maybe a prayer breakfast wasn't exactly the place to be saying things like that out loud.

Well, on that last one, maybe I am, but it wasn't my prayer breakfast.   (We don't have prayer breakfasts.  remember?  I don't really know what goes on in those places, except for that silly one the president has to go to every year. The one Ol' Phil probably shouldn't get invited to, if everybody knows what's good for them.)

Naw. I'm letting it go.  I think it's pretty hilarious. That Phil!  You and I both know this isn't the real Phil.  The real Phil is a savvy businessman turned dubious actor who makes scads of money by being Phil the bearded camo-christian bible-thumper.  In addition to marketing Duck Dynasty camo baseball caps, hoodies, tee-shirts, beach towels, key chains, mugs, mouse pads, Monopoly games, and baby Onesies, he publishes his own bible.  (The original King James version apparently leaves a lot to be desired.  Too much New Testament stuff.  And all the gory, sexy parts aren't underlined.)

*A question for another day:  If there is one true bible, why are there so many bibles?

I don't want Phil banned or boycotted or even bobbed.  Down there.  I want him to say more.  Get it all out.  I'm on a mission to figure out if God actually tells Phil these things or if Phil is maybe a bit dyslexic and he's sort of fouling those words up.  I've heard so many strange things this God has supposedly said to people I'm now hopelessly, unhealthily obsessed by the whole Telephone Gameness of it all.

I'm on the outside looking in--an impartial observer--and from my side it's not looking good for God.  (What? I'll go along.)  Lord knows He tries, but if He's so omnipotent, so omniscient, so perfect, how is it that He can't get his followers to repeat after Him and get His message out in clear, coherent (that is to say, non-nuts) sentences?

Whatever happened to the Beatitudes?  The Psalms?  The Lord's Prayer, for God's sake?  They're all in the Old Testament--the book the Fundies love to haul out while they're swooning through their sacred hatefests.

How is it that God allowed His primer, the Bible, to get so fuzzy whole chapters of it are up for grabs in the interpretation department?  Murder! Mayhem! Misogyny! Miscegenation! Homosexuality! Obama!

All I can say is, if You're out there anywhere, God, You've got Your work cut out for You.  Time for some smiting, Big Fella.  These guys aren't getting You or Your Only Begotten Son at all.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Not "The Onion": GOP Senators Tell Iran Obama's Not The Boss, They Are

In a stunning open letter to the leaders of Iran, 47 Republican senators let it be known that, while Barack Obama might occupy the White House and temporarily hold the title of President and Commander-in-chief of these United States, it is Congress--most especially the Republican Congress--that holds the cards when it comes to any kind of nuclear deal.

The letter--did I mention it was addressed to the leaders of Iran?--was written by Tom Cotton, freshman senator from Arkansas, and signed by all but seven Republicans in the United States Senate.

It began like this:
An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran:

It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.  Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution — the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices — which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.

Does that paragraph seem a little strange to you?  Who, outside of Monty Python, or maybe your local HOA, writes, "It has come to our attention. . ."?

Who, besides a newbie Tea Party senator (or a hotshot American Constitution 101 student) thinks it's a good idea to publicly school the leaders of another country about the laws of the United States?

Who, for that matter, writes an open letter to leaders of a country with which we're negotiating nuclear agreements, telling them they shouldn't be negotiating anything with this particular president when it's this particular congress that will ultimately have to approve? 
From the letter:  "For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms.  As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then — perhaps decades.
"What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.  The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time."
 Who writes this without knowing that congress only approves and does not ratify a treaty?
"First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them.  In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote.  A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate).  Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement."
Who does that without knowing that it's not just our country in negotiations with Iran, but a UN coalition made up of five other countries--the UK, Russia, China, France and Germany?

Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, did his own schooling yesterday:
"I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law.
The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfill the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.
I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement 'with the stroke of a pen', as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law."

So how did Tom Cotton get 46 other senators, many of them senior senators and wannabe presidential candidates, to sign their names at the bottom of that misdirected, miscalculated, misinformed mess? 

I can hardly wait to hear from the signers--the ones who woke up this morning, as if from a hangover, thinking, "What in hell? Where am I?  What did I do?"

The seven Republican senators who didn't sign:
1. Flake (AZ)
2. Collins (ME)
3. Corker (TN)
4. Murkowski (AK)
5. Alexander (TN)
6. Coats (IN)
7. Cochran (MS)


And, man, oh, man, (Got that from Biden) didn't the shit hit the fan?  It did.  In great steaming gobs.  So many are responding at so many different sources, it's impossible, even at this early stage, to link to them all.

Bernie Sanders accused the signers of sabotage.  And Joe Biden said this:
“In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country--much less a longtime foreign adversary–that the president does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them,” Biden wrote. “This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments-a message that is as false as it is dangerous.”

To which, Tom Cotton, the author of the now infamous letter, who, at this writing, has no foreign policy or national security experience whatsoever, responded:
“Joe Biden, as [President] Barack Obama’s own secretary of defense has said, has been wrong about nearly every foreign policy and national security decision in the last 40 years,” Cotton said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” in a reference to former Pentagon chief Robert Gates, who ripped Biden in a tell-all memoir after leaving office.
And on it goes.  There is no end to the disrespect and outright hatred for this president.  The caterwauling against him raises by a thousand decibels each year he is in office.  The haters, including those members of congress who have made it their mission to take him down by any means necessary, aren't finished yet.  If this doesn't work--and it won't--they'll move on to something else.
It's worth noting that this all came down on the same weekend the country was recognizing the sacrifices made by the Civil Rights marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years ago in Selma, Alabama.  On Saturday, the same day the Open Letter to the Islamic Leaders of Iran became public, our president, Barack Obama, gave the speech of his life at the entrance of the "Bloody Sunday" bridge.

In his speech President Obama said,
"The Americans who crossed this bridge were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, and countless daily indignities – but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.  

What they did here will reverberate through the ages. Not because the change they won was preordained; not because their victory was complete; but because they proved that nonviolent change is possible; that love and hope can conquer hate." 
 And this is why the haters, even those members of congress who will never give this president the legitimacy he deserves, will lose.  We've made too many sacrifices in too many places at too many times to give in and give up and let them win.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Liberaland

Friday, March 6, 2015

Yes, Virginia, There Really Are Unicorn Hunters

There is a real Unicorn Hunters Society in the United States, in case you hadn’t heard.  It was formed in 1971, even though, as you know, unicorns have been around forever.  The society is based at Lake Superior State University (hereafter known as LSSU) in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (pronounced “soo saint Marie, hereafter known as The Soo).

The Soo is at the northern terminus of I-75, just beyond the 46th parallel, an hour north of where I live most of the year.   Up in the north woods hunting is a traditional activity, but until unicorn hunting was established only certain of us believed they existed.  The Unicorn Hunters Society, knowing what chaos would ensue once word got out about the mythical creatures’ activities, wisely set up a list of regulations.
From their Unicorn Quest list:
    1. Only one Unicorn per month. A success ratio higher than this often results in a form of euphoria, which of course requires a mental truss. This is highly undesirable.
    2. Female unicorns may not be taken. Since no one has ever sighted a female unicorn it is believed that males reproduce asexually.
  • TERM OF SEASON. All days of the year except St. Agnes’ Eve. This exception is to protect hares who limp trembling through frozen grass from being trampled by running unicorns. Bow and arrow season is Oct. 1 – Nov. 14, then Dec. 1 – Jan. 1.
  • APPROVED QUESTING DEVICES. Unicorns may be taken with:
    1. Serious Intent
    2. Iambic Pentameter
    3. General levity
    4. Sweet talk
(See complete list of regulations here.  Download a Unicorn Quest license here.)

The society was founded by W.T (Bill) Rabe,  a Public Relations mischief-maker from Detroit who later became the resourceful PR Director at LSSU.  He was looking for something unique that would put the obscure little university on the map, and, for reasons obscure, he came up with The Quest for Unicorns.

It got some attention.  Who could resist? But for Rabe it apparently wasn’t enough. At a New Year’s Eve party a few years later, in 1975, he and some of the other Unicorn Hunters got together and began writing down the words or phrases they most hated that year. (Must have been some boring party is all I can say.)  They saw right then and there that unicorn hunters made the most perfect wordsnobs wordsmiths, and the idea for the First Annual Unicorn Hunters List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness was born. (Hereafter known as the Banished Words List.  Or List.  Or list.)

Bill Rabe, old PR expert that he was, chose New Year’s Day, 1976, for the list’s debut date.  He knew from experience that January 1 is traditionally a slow news day, and the media, always hungry for tidbits on that day, would snap up the whimsical back story about the unicorn hunters and help to promote the Banished Words List.

Some of the words from that first list:  At this point in time, detente, macho, scenario.  (See 1976 list here.  See archive of all the words here.)  Now the voting is open to everyone and the words or phrases that show up most often will get to the top of the list.

Last year’s list included Selfie (no surprise), twerk/twerking, hashtag, Twittersphere (or Twitterverse, as someone corrected.) and Obamacare.

This year  they added BAE (a new word for me until my niece explained it), polar vortex, skill set, cra-cra, and my own favorite candidate, enhanced interrogation.

Well, certain people took umbrage (whoa–a candidate right there) with the Unicorn Hunters.  They didn’t see this as just so much fun; they saw it as a bunch of stuffy university types forcing people to stop using words or phrases of their choosing.   One commenter wrote, “Nobody is going to tell me what words I can use.  Not gonna happen. Bite me.”  (Oy.)

I’ve perused (all right, read) the whole damn list from A to Z and I’m pretty sure I’ve used at least a third of those words and phrases.  (Except bromance” and “chillaxing”. Typing them here for the first and last time.)

I literally (Literally! Ha!  Not on the list!) love lazy phrases and cliches, but only when I’m using them.  I hate it when other people take the easy way out and use them, too.  Amateurs!

I’ve followed the Unicorn Hunters for years and I love these lists, but at the end of the day (1999), they’re just words, right?  So far it’s not a crime to use them, right?  So will I try to mend my ways?

As if! (1997)

(Cross-posted at Constant Commoner)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

CPAC! A Fond Look Back on the Circuses That Were

It's CPAC time!  I almost missed it!  (My invitation no doubt was lost in the mail.)  Since 2009, shortly after I first started writing this blog, I've been fascinated by the dizzy doings over at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference).  I admit that before I took to writing a political blog, I didn't know much about what turns out to be a venerable old conference designed to highlight the Conservative (and now Tea Party) leanings of the Republican Party.  It's the coming-out party for potential presidential candidates and has been on the scene for over 40 years.  (Honestly? Since 1973? And I thought I was paying attention.)

The main speakers this year are about the same as the main speakers from several years past:  Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, Sean Hannity, Carly Fiorina, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio,  Rick Santorum, --oh, and Jeb Bush. This year they've added Phil Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" fame, but once again it looks like a snub for Rush Limbaugh. (Heh)

Here is the complete schedule of festivitiesA warning:  Some of the session titles are chilling.  Hitch up your britches and grab a stiff drink before proceeding.  But I like this one:  Good Guys Reception, sponsored by the National Rifle Association and Freedom Alliance.  By invitation only.

(There are numerous spots where you can pick up a live feed, so as not to miss anything crucial.  C-Span is as good a place as any.) 

So since this is a big weekend for the Republicans, I thought I would take a look back on the blogging I've done about CPAC since 2009. 

2009: Crazy With Fear: CPAC 2009. My first trip down the rabbit hole.  What an adventure!

2010Square Deal, New Deal, Fair Deal, Raw Deal . Alas, but a mere mention.  I don't know what was going on that year but CPAC obviously wasn't a priority.

2011: Friday Follies:  Mother Jones, Feral Pigs, Palin, Bachmann, Simpson and Da Yoopers. An even tinier mention, having to do with Michelle Bachmann, but the rest of the blog is pretty good.

2012Thank You, Cal Thomas. Mighty Big of You.  I wrote back then that Cal Thomas could probably kick himself for getting involved with that bunch.  Silly me.  He's on the roster again this year.

2013CPAC 2013. Wingers Just Want to Have Fun.  But not too much fun.  The dress code--an entire poster full of dress code--says no-no to the nightclub look and to Walmart wear.  Conference-goers are required to look like they mean business, even if there's funny business going on.
But they did allow zombie costumes at "The Walking Dead, Obama Zombies on Parade" bash.  So that's cool.
2014 Hail, CPAC! Silly Season is Upon us. Can Spring be Far Behind? Wherein Ted Cruz puts on his McCarthy face and Christine (I am not a witch) O'Donnell does a book signing along with Callista Gingrich, one of Newt's wives.  Good times.

So that's it, then.  I'll probably be following along on Twitter and Facebook when I think of it, looking for the fun stuff.  I just hope there is some fun stuff.  I don't know.  The Republicans have been letting me down in the fun department lately.  Ever since they took over the entire federal government, except for that one place where that foreign squatter with the funny name lives.

I hate it when they do things that don't make me laugh.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog, Freak Out Nation, and LiberalandFeatured on MBRU at Crooks and Liars)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Yes, Rudy, It Was a Horrible Thing To Say. Thank You.

According to an article in Politico, former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani told a group of Republicans gathered to pay some sort of attention to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker that it's his belief that President Obama doesn't love them, him, or even the entire United States of America.

This is what he said:
I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.
Well, the pundit class went nuts!  The progressives could barely speak and had to hiss, they were so mad.  The Republicans haughtily explained that there was no need to explain:  What Giuliani said was very, very, very close to the truth.

Giuliani went on Fox News and said well, yes, Obama is probably a patriot but he keeps saying bad things about America, something no other president before him ever did.  He doesn't believe in American exceptionalism, blah, blah, blah.
"I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being," [Obama] said at West Point in 2014. "But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions."

Then Giuliani went on the air wherever he could and kept at it and kept at it and kept at it.  The theme:  Obama is not like us.  He doesn't understand America.  He is, okay, let's just get it out there--the Other.

But Rudy wasn't being racist.  Oh, no.  Far from it, according to Giuliani:
“Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people,” Mr. Giuliani said in the interview. “This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.” 
And, bizarrely, apropos of nothing, "President Obama didn't live through 9/11, I did."

So at the end of the day, you know who comes out smelling like a rose?  Obama does.  Because every person not so inclined toward stupid--Republican, Democrat, Independent, and Other--will now have to come out and defend the president. They'll have to condemn such remarks and remind the Americans that we're all Americans.  Even Obama.  Some of them--those who know November, 2016 isn't that far away--will have to hold their noses to do it, but do it they will.

The punditry will be grabbing at Obama quotes to prove he does love his country, he does love you and me, he doesn't love Muslims more than he loves Christians, he's not a Communist or an anti-colonialist, he doesn't just say bad things about America.

And all President Obama has to do is sit back and let it happen.

So thank you, Rudy.  Well done!  Now come on over here and let me give you a big 'ol hug.

(Read it at Dagblog and Freak Out Nation)