Friday, March 30, 2012

Dispatches on a Lazy Friday

It is a lazy, sun drenched, day here on the southern plains. It seems as if everything has gone into slow motion after a few frantic days of outrage, stupidity, and brutality.

News on the net continues to trickle in and as always it is a mixed bag of things, good, bad, and ugly.

First on the list is word that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will undergo psychiatric testing by the army. That is hardly a surprise. The Sgt. is accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians in their homes. Some might think the extensive tests that are to be performed by a board of army doctors is a tad late at this juncture. It might have been more helpful if someone had taken a long hard look at him before he was deployed on his fourth combat tour. However, such conjecture will probably be construed as Monday morning quarterbacking by the brass who ultimately has to take some blame in this terrible crime. After all, they were the ones who shipped him there after promising him that he could stay stateside and become a recruiter.

Then there is Spike Lee. He issued an apology the other day to David and Elaine McClain for retweeting the address of their home because he thought it belonged to George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, of course, is the man who shot and killed 17 year old Trayvon Martin. Lee also paid the McClain's expenses because they had to move from their home to a hotel to escape the hate mail and possibly worse. And  proving once again that vicious idiots are running wild on Twitter and the net, Lee has received numerous angry tweets, many of them racist in nature. If we've learned anything from this grotesque affair it is that all those white conservatives who say racism is dead and maintain charges of discrimination are being used for purely political gain are either liars, or fools. The ugliness is alive and thriving just beneath the surface of this society and it will be generations before we rid ourselves of it.

In a St. Louis suburb a black homeless woman was charged with trespassing in a hospital emergency room when she refused to leave after complaining about leg pain. She had all ready been to a couple of other E.R.'s seeking help, but to no avail . The woman, Anna Brown 28 year old mother of two, was cleared by E.R doctors to be arrested and was carted off to the Richmond Hills, Missouri lock up. Not long after she was ushered into her cell she died of blood clots that migrated from her legs to her lungs.

Over in the Austrian village of Leonding officials removed the tombstone of Alois and Klara Hitler from the grave site at the request of an unnamed and elderly descendant. Alois and Klara sired Adolph who pretty much turned Europe and parts of Africa into his own personal version of Gotterdammerung. The woman reportedly decided to have the head stone taken down because she was too old to maintain the grave site and since only the Russians know where Der Fuher is buried, it had become a pilgrimage destination for neo nazis.

Yes, it was a slow news day. Sometimes though the low grade accumulation of information can mean more in its sum than a four bell story blaring all over the headlines. Sometimes erosion takes a far greater toll than an earthquake.

Well, at least the sun is out.

3-30-12   

      

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spike Lee Does The Wrong Thing and Lets Be Careful

I deeply apologize to the McClain family for tweeting their address. It was a mistake. Please leave the McClain's in peace. Justice in court.
Spike Lee



Yeah, Spike, it was a mistake. A big one.

It would seem technology has far outpaced common sense in these early years of the twenty first century. Of course that is nothing new really. The history of humankind is replete with examples of people not grasping a full understanding of the effect of new inventions upon the course of things like war, society, and now our national psyche.

What happened was documented by MSNBC blogger Helen A.S. Popkin. According to her report, some dude in L.A. named Marcus Davonne Higgins found a Sanford, Florida address for George W. Zimmerman. He reportedly tweeted it to people such as Will Smith, 50 Cent, LaBron James and Lee. Obviously he knew that all these guys had huge Twitter audiences and the word would spread like wild fire if they retweeted it. Lee was the only one to take the bait.

The first thing wrong with this picture is that, George W. Zimmerman isn't the guy who shot Trayvon Martin. That guy is George Michael Zimmerman. George W. Zimmerman is Mrs. McClain's son and had lived with his mother and step father briefly after getting out of college. The address put out by Lee is about four miles from the scene of the shooting.

The McClain's are in their 70's and Mrs. McClain has a heart condition. That condition certainly won't improve now that the couple has had to move out of their home and into hiding because of the tweet and subsequent death threats.

The second thing one has to wonder about is what Lee hoped to accomplish by posting the address. On first blush it would seem he was trying to incite some sort of vigilante reprisal. Despite the plea for "justice in court" at the end of the apology why else would you publish what you thought was the shooter's address? It probably wasn't, as the football parlay cards say, purely for entertainment purposes.

We need to be really careful right now. The Trayvon Martin tragedy must be addressed. George M. Zimmerman should be held accountable for his actions and to be quite honest some sanity needs to be restored to Florida state statutes regarding the use of firearms. Pointing a mob to a specific location where the focus of their anger may, or may not be is not going to help the situation. In fact it will only give racists everywhere in this country another excuse to believe their bull shit take on life.

Mr. Lee has 250,000 followers on Twitter. I hope all of them read the apology. Because if only 249,999 did and that one person who didn't sets a fire or shoots someone, anyone, things are going to get uglier than they all ready are. And that isn't going to do any of us any good.

3-29-12

   

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kelsey Bransby and Alina Fitzpatrick Are Still Dead

We are a a fast food, intensely faddist nation. We are constantly possessed by the latest rages and out rages. We are all about the moment. When the Komen foundation pulled grants from Planned Parenthood huge segments of the population roared their disapproval. For days the Internet and cable news services couldn't talk enough about it. Komen's management backed down and suddenly everyone was back in pink and running for the cure once again.

Then Jason Russell's video about Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony went viral and the next thing you know all sorts of young people were wearing Kony 2012 tee shirts. Twitter was all atwitter.Unfortunately Russell went, as they say, a little funny in the head and was last seen stark naked on a San Diego street corner raving at passersby and masturbating. But it didn't matter, the Kony rage had all ready run its course. We were all ready looking else where.

Thanks to George Zimmerman it didn't take us long to find a new cause. Currently crowds are in the streets calling for Quick Draw McGraw's head because he shot an unarmed teenager in the course of his duties as neighborhood watch "captain." This craze will probably have more legs than either Komen, or Kony. After all Planned Parenthood is still in business, Kony is still in Africa while Trayvon Martin is currently being depicted as a drug fiend by authorities who are desperately trying to cover their asses. Sadly, as white hot as the issue currently is, it will still have a shelf life. Somewhere down the road, beyond his family and friends Trayvon Martin will cease to be a household name. Hoodie sales will return to their normal levels.

There in lies the problem with America. We have the collective attention span of a five year old on a sugar rush.

In Oklahoma City things began to go weird in the deadliest sort of ways last October. Within a month three young women were murdered. First was Carina Saunders who went missing, then turned up in pieces in a duffel bag. Shortly after that gruesome discovery a former class mate of hers, Kelsey Bransby was found shot in the face in a south side apartment.

Ms. Bransby's case had the misfortune of following on the heels of the more lurid Saunders' murder. It would seem a simple shooting death can't compete with the overwhelming fascination generated by decapitation and dismemberment. In fact it appeared the local media was bored by the story from the very beginning. Just another vanilla murder in the big town. Very little was said, or written in its immediate aftermath and certainly nothing has been mentioned lately. It looks like the police and the local news organizations have written her off completely. She became, cruelly, old news even before the next body was discovered.

In early November Alina Fitzpatrick went missing.  She turned up five days later, dead, naked, covered with what was described as "wide spread" bruises and abrasions." She was also found with a gag in her mouth. Her system was chock full of meth, but that still didn't explain how she got to that lonely field in far eastern Oklahoma City so obviously abused. On January 20th an OKC police Sgt gave a hint as to how important her death was to the department. She was quoted as saying, that although officers were keeping an open file on the case, they weren't currently investigating it as a homicide. That cold blooded take must have rang someones bell because ten days later an OKC police captain went on record as saying that the investigation, while not technically a homicide, was still active and on going.

That is, as far as I know, the last mention of the Alina Fitzpatrick case in the newspaper, or any other media outlet in this town. It would appear both she and Kelsey Bransby are just two more  largely forgotten casualties who were caught up in the violent undertow of American society. The media won't bother to mention them any more because there is no progress, no suspects, no drama. Cold cases don't sell ad space and besides there are new fish to fry, new outrages to capture the public imagination.

Yes, we like our burgers served fast and hot and then we want to move on. Never stay in one place too long. Kelsey Bransby and Alina Fitzpatrick are still dead. Tell us something new.

3-27-12

   

Monday, March 26, 2012

Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman and Stand Your Ground

Craig Sonner is the attorney of record for George Zimmerman. Zimmerman is the neighborhood watch "captain" who gunned down 17 year old Trayvon Martin. At the time Martin was armed with a bag of Skittles and a can of ice tea. Sonner says he is confident the killing is justified under the Florida "Stand Your Ground" statutes. These are laws that apparently allow just about anyone in the Sunshine State to shoot and kill candy wielding young men because, well, they are candy wielding young men.

Obviously it is a bit more complicated than that, but not much. Zimmerman is currently in hiding and in fear of his life. He can't be blamed for that. Huge crowds all across this nation are demanding he be arrested and put in the dock for murder. The New Black Panther Party has reportedly offered a ten grand reward to anyone who is able to locate him. It is doubtful the Panthers want that information so they can counsel Mr. Zimmerman on the finer points of race relations over a cup of coffee.

Florida prosecutor Angela Corey says it will be difficult to prove guilt in the case because of the stand your ground laws. It doesn't help that no one actually saw what happened except Zimmerman, unless you count Martin. A woman named Mary Cutcher has come forward saying she heard cries of distress outside of her open window, but by the time she looked outside the shooting was over. She does say that the cries sounded as if they were coming from a young person, not an adult. And, that after the shot the cries abruptly stopped. She also said she saw Zimmerman standing astride the body, leaning over, pressing his hands against Martin's back. Zimmerman apparently yelled at her to call the police, but offered no aid to the teen.

A couple of weeks ago the nation was aflame with a passion to go after Joseph Kony in Uganda. That fad went right out the window when this sordid story hit Twitter and the net. People dumped their Kony 2012 tees and are now donning hoodies all over the place. The Miami Heat NBA team circulated a photo of the squad standing with heads bowed, all of them wearing matching hooded sweat shirts. Entire church congregations showed up yesterday wearing them. Hell, I even got into the act early Saturday morning, but when you are a 62 year old overweight white guy people tend to think of words like funny and sad. Suspicious never enters their minds. No one even asked me about it.

I always grow uneasy when some situation, or act whips people into a fury and lawyers and "experts" all over the place begin to try a case in the court of public opinion. Rage and media analysis tends to create a toxic fog that obscures the truth. Reason and impartiality go right out the window.

Sonner maintains that Martin attacked Zimmerman. That his client suffered a broken nose and gash to the back of the head and that the pants he was wearing that night have grass stains on them.

A black friend of Zimmerman has gone on TV stating that Zimmerman has never given him any reason to think he is a racist. He went on to say that if Martin had just told Zimmerman he was visiting relatives he wouldn't have been killed. Our old pal Geraldo Rivera claims that if Martin hadn't been wearing the hoodie he would be alive today.

The problem with those observations are two fold. Trayvon Martin had no idea who George Zimmerman was. For all he knew Zimmerman was a run amok serial killer. And if you can be shot to death over your choice of  fashion, Lady Gaga is living on borrowed time.

Well, if everyone else is going to speculate I will too. In my mind here is what happened. I can see it perfectly. Zimmerman is armed and thinks he is a cop, or at least some sort of sanctioned para military protector of the neighborhood. He sees a black kid on foot, hood up because of the rain and immediately thinks he can't be up to any good. He begins to follow him. Martin notices Zimmerman and becomes alarmed. In his mind Zimmerman IS Jack the Ripper. Finally Martin begins to run. We know he did because Zimmerman told police 911 that he was running. It never enters Zimmerman's mind the kid is running from him because he is scared. Ignoring the urgent advice by the dispatcher not to follow the young man, Zimmerman pursues him. To George Zimmerman, Martin is running away from some sort of crime because that is what black kids in hoodies do. They perpetrate crimes.

At some point, right out side of  Mary Cutcher's window Martin stopped running. Either he was gassed, or felt trapped. He turned to face what he was sure was a deadly attack by some crazed stranger. He, in fact, did exactly what those Florida stand your ground laws say you can do, he defended himself with every means at his disposal. Unfortunately for him  his every means were candy and tea, Zimmerman's was a 9 millimeter and he didn't hesitate to use it.

Zimmerman's friend says he was and is devastated by the shooting. Well he could have saved himself the grief if he had done what neighborhood watch guys are supposed to do, call the cops and let them handle the situation. He could have prevented the whole tragedy by following the advice of the 911 dispatcher and cease to chase after Trayvon Martin. Finally, none of this would have happened if he hadn't been packing a gun.

I don't know if the guy is an overt racist or not, but he certainly didn't help his case by making a series of assumptions based on race and appearance. No one, not that cheap shill Rivera, not Zimmerman's lawyer or his pal are denying that fact of life. And those assumptions are what triggered the whole terrible affair. To be honest if that isn't racism I don't know what is..

3-26-12





Friday, March 23, 2012

Trayvon Martin Brings Skittles to a Gun Fight

"This guy looks like he is up to no good. He is on drugs or something."
George Zimmerman speaking with Sanford, Florida police dispatch.


That "guy" would be 17 year old Trayvon Martin. He was visiting relatives in Sanford and on the night in question decided to take a walk to a local convenience store. Because it was raining he put the hood of his jacket on.  He was returning from the store when he was confronted by Zimmerman who was captain of the local neighborhood watch program.

What happened next has gone viral on the web. It has caused hundreds of thousands of people, including celebrities such as Spike Lee, Michael Moore, and Ice Cube to get involved, at least through Twitter and Facebook.

Zimmerman saw a young black man, hood up, "acting suspiciously." How he was acting suspiciously is a bit vague, unless you count every black kid on foot as suspicious. At about the same time, Martin, over his cell phone, told a friend that a strange man was following him.

Zimmerman, who is 28 and is, depending on who you listen to, either Anglo, or Hispanic, called 911 which is what neighborhood watch people are supposed to do. He reported Martin's whereabouts and told the dispatcher which direction he was walking. As things turned stranger and more serious Zimmerman told the dispatcher that Martin had begun to run. That, of course, is pretty much what any 17 year old would do when being followed on a rainy night by some guy he didn't know. There are, after all, a lot of crazy people out there.

Listening to the tape you can hear the surprise and concern in the dispatcher's voice when he asks Zimmerman, "are you following him?" When Zimmerman says yes, the dispatcher immediately tells him, "we don't need you to do that." In other words, back off and let the pros handle the situation.

Zimmerman ignored the advice. By the time it was over, Trayvon Martin was dead. He was shot to death by George Zimmerman who, thanks to the great state of Florida, was legally carrying a hand gun. Zimmerman says Martin attacked him, which on the face of it seems odd for a guy running from you, unless you had him cornered. He is citing Florida's "stand your ground" law as his defense. Apparently in Florida you can blow people away just because you have gotten into an argument with them.

The whole tragedy remained under the radar of the national media until radio hosts looking for a button to push began to tweet about it. Like so many other things now days in this age of instant information and more importantly, instant and verifiable public feed back, the shit hit the fan. Huge crowds have gathered both in real time and in that nebulous universe of virtual existence howling for Zimmerman's head. On line petitions are circulating. The chief of police has resigned. Trayvon Martin, victim and George Zimmerman, shooter have become the faces of all that is wrong with with race relations in America.

They have also become the latest example of how instantly a huge howling mob can gather venting their anger and frustrations. Facebook and Twitter have made traditional news sources seem as quaint and out of date as stage coaches. Via the web and Twitter not only do you get the news immediately, you can react to it, participate in it. You can become part of the story and who doesn't want to do that.

In this case it is hard to condemn the sudden and wide spread anger. The brutal truth is that, Trayvon Martin was holding a cell phone, a package of Skittles and a can of ice tea. George Zimmerman was packing a 9 millimeter.

Years ago my wife and I went to see a stand up comedy act by Thea Vidal. At the end of it she started talking about how brave white people were in the movies. "You know you all walk into haunted houses. You look into the dark to find some murderer. That is some brave stuff. It makes me wonder why, when you see two young black men coming toward you on the sidewalk, you cross the street."

Well obviously some of us don't. Especially those among us who are carrying 9 mils and want to be Wyatt Earp.

Lord, we still have so far to go. Sometimes I think we'll never get there.

3-23-12

    

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mitt Has The Big Mo and The Real Race Has Begun

It is official. The Mitt has the Big Mo behind him. After scooping up 43 delegates in Illinois his lead has expanded to three hundred over his nearest rival, Rick Santorum. His tally is now at 563 which is just a handful of conventioneers short of being half way home.

Next up is Louisiana with 40 plus delegates. Romney has been a complete failure in the south with the exception of Florida. Although the reality is that Florida ceases to be a southern state once you hit the Orlando and Tampa city limits and go south. Even with a ringing victory in Louisiana Santorum is just delaying the inevitable. Beyond the bayous loom Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. It is hard to imagine the former senator winning any of those states except maybe Pennsylvania and even that isn't a sure bet. The last time he was involved in a election in his home state the voters ran him out of office on a rail.

The Obama people think it is a done deal and after yesterday it looks to be they are right.

As I type the Romney people are debating who will be his running mate. The obvious choice is to go conservative. Shore up the right wing and south with some southern social conservative screecher who will rile up the masses. Somebody who will  condemn liberals, Hollywood, MSNBC, CNN and just about anyone who ever even thought Planned Parenthood and affordable health care might be good ideas.

There is no doubt he needs someone who can energize a crowd. Mitt himself certainly can't. He has all the charisma of a damp wash cloth. It is one of several reasons this thing has dragged out so long. I mean the guy has more money than God and Santorum, who couldn't even win re-election to the senate is technically still alive.

But, does he need a southern Sarah Palin who actually has a functioning brain? The brutal answer to that is no. Despite the abject debacles he has suffered in the old south, the confederate south, come November they'll all be in his pocket. The only possible exceptions to that are Florida and North Carolina. No, the descendants of the Army of Northern Virginia will hold their noses as they vote for him, but vote for him they will. It is absolutely delusional to think places like Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and further west, Oklahoma and Texas can be carried by Obama under any circumstances.

No, what Mitt Romney needs is some dynamo from a swing state. An Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, or New Jersey. He has the south. What he really needs is to cut into Obama's 2008 electoral total somewhere north and east of Kentucky. That is why I tend to think New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is currently on a vigorous diet and exercise program. Christie is just the type of blue collar pit bull that Romney needs.

Obviously Christie has to agree to the spot on the ticket, but he has never said he'd turn it down. If he thinks Romney can win and he can, why wouldn't he? It sets him up for the big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue eight years down the road.

One thing we do know for sure is that each prospective vice presidential candidate will be vetted for months before the decision is made. Republican operatives will be crawling up bodily orifices with head lamps ablaze. There is no way they are going to foul up so completely like they did four years ago. The Palin disaster taught them a lesson they will never forget. The guys and gals at Saturday Night Live will never have it that easy again.

So, the campaign for the nomination will drag on, but it seems just a formality now. Look for Romney's rhetoric, his focus, to shift toward Obama. It would appear that the real presidential campaign is about to begin in earnest. As Holmes said in another context, "The Game is afoot." For the republicans and Mitt Romney, it is about time.

3-21-12

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Obama Believes It Will Be Romney And The President Comes To Town

While we await the results from today's Illinois primary one thing has become perfectly clear. The Obama people are convinced Mitt Romney will be the nominee of the republican party. I receive one or two emails from them a day. No, I don't  have their ear, they come flowing in because I gave them $25. Trust me, if you do that you'll get the same emails.

The content of the emails assail Romney on many fronts. The latest, that his pals at Bain Capital have invested heavily in a Chinese company that makes surveillance cameras and systems. This enables the powers that be to  keep an Orwellian eye on the masses. According to the email Romney's blind trust receives profits from this little buy in and it is rather at odds with his charges that the current administration is soft on Chinese political oppression. Not to mention the fact that Romney had promised to divest himself of all investments that conflict with his political views. Of course the problem there is that the governor has no set political values. His political and social philosophies shift dramatically depending on poll numbers and or the audience he is speaking to. It is just one of the reasons that, other than Florida, he can't buy a win in the south.

Puerto Rico probably began the writing on the wall. He picked up all twenty delegates from the island and should win easily in the home of Lincoln. To be honest though the white house seemed to instinctively know the republicans wouldn't self immolate by nominating someone like Rick Santorum, or Newt Gingrich. After all look at what happened to Goldwater back in 1964. And Santorum and Gingrich make Barry look like an absolute statesman.

No, the emails don't even mention those two terrible little ferrets. Nor do they take into consideration the hapless Ron Paul. They are all about the Mitt.

Meanwhile Obama himself is flying into Oklahoma City tomorrow. He will speak in Cushing about the Keystone pipeline. The crowds he will draw are sure to be hostile and probably embarrassingly vocal. Four years ago the president didn't carry a single county in Oklahoma. Oklahoma conservatives consider him nothing less than the Anti Christ. Their level of disrespect and boorish rhetoric paints a portrait of xenophobic loathing that cannot be reasoned with unless you are packing a can of mace and a Louisville Slugger. My wife refuses to put an Obama bumper sticker on her car because she is certain a brick will come through the windshield in some parking lot. When I was driving around with an Al Gore sticker on my vehicle years ago I was routinely given the finger by all manner of strangers.

Yes,  they are an ugly lot, many of them racist to the core despite public denials. Logic and temperance have no place in their outrage.To paraphrase a line from the late 1960's, if you aren't part of their solution, you are part of their problem. The only thing Obama can hope to gain from this trip is stunning video proof of all the white hot hatred and unleashed slurs. The outright savagery that will be on display might help galvanize his staff and volunteers through out the rest of the nation. Show the opposition in all its toxic evil to prove what we're up against once and for all. Rally the troops with the challenge, "is this who you want running the country?"

Indeed, it might work. One can only hope.

3-20-12

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Name of Horror

So now horror has a name and it is Robert Bales, Staff Sgt. 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, United States Army. He is currently sitting in custody while the military decides what to charge him with in connection with the murder of 16 Afghan citizens, most of whom were children.

Looking at a brief history of his life, courtesy of the New York Times on the surface he seems like the All American kid. He is the youngest of 5 children and was raised in the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood, Ohio. He apparently was outgoing and friendly. He played middle linebacker on the football team and was voted one of the best dancers in his class. Everyone called him Bobby.

The people he has been acquainted with over the years seem to be in shock and disbelief that the nightmare that evening could have been perpetrated by him. By all accounts he was a completely decent, although utterly average sort.

There are, however,  hints at a darker Bobby Bales that peek between the cracks every now and then. He signed his yearbook football picture with the name "Doom." He dropped out of Ohio State after three years for reasons not explained, or at least currently public. He knocked around in the financial business, first in Ohio, then with a brother who opened up a firm in south Florida. It went belly up rather quickly.

He joined the army at age 27 two months after the September 11th terrorist attacks and was assigned to Ft. Lewis in Washington after basic. While there he was arrested for assaulting a woman at a local motel. He paid a fine and attended a court mandated anger management course. He left the scene of an accident where he rolled a vehicle. Later he claimed he fell asleep at the wheel.

He got married and he and his wife had two children. And, he began multiple deployments to Iraq.

He was described as a calming and mature influence and a good team leader. And apparently he liked it hot. On his second tour in Iraq he and his unit became involved in a pitched battle with hundreds of insurgents as U.S. troops tried to recover a downed Black Hawk Helicopter. He was interviewed by the Ft. Lewis newspaper afterward and described the encounter this way, "The cool part about this was that it was World War II style."

He described his third tour as "boring and pretty dumb" and was upset there was a lack of combat.

Somewhere in there that attitude changed. He suffered a wound to the foot, but it was minor enough it didn't get him sent home. He was also involved in a vehicle accident and incurred a head injury.

By the time he got home it looks as if he had tired of combat. He trained as a recruiter, but was passed over for a promotion while still only about half way to twenty years of service and retirement. The army not only didn't give him the recruiter's position, they shipped him out once more, this time to Afghanistan.

At home things were going south financially. After his marriage he moved into a house his wife owned in Auburn, Washington. They moved to a new house in Lake Tapps, Washington and rented out the old place, but things weren't going well. They fell $17,000 behind in payments and owed $195,000 to the bank. The house now has reportedly sat empty and in disrepair for quite some time.

Three days before the massacre his wife contacted a real estate agent to sell the Lake Tapps house, because the family was stretched so thin financially.

A day or two before it happened one of his buddies lost a leg to a land mine.

The army says marital problems, stress, and alcohol caused him to snap.

Bales' lawyer claims he doesn't have problems with alcohol and his marriage is solid.

What we know for sure is that no one is saying he didn't do it. At some point on that terrible night he walked away from his post and went utterly berserk.

What we also know is that just before he ceased to be a soldier and became a murderer, Bobby Bales sent his wife this terse message. "Hard day for the good guys."

Indeed. And they are going to get harder still thanks to, Sgt. Robert Bales. It is downhill from here. All that is left in Afghanistan is more deadly outrage and gruesome atrocities. The war needs to end before there are more ghastly acts on either side. It needs to end immediately.

3-19-12

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Day Two Massacre and The Curse of Krzyzewski

"We messed up some brackets! We messed up some brackets!"
Norfolk State University center, Kyle O'Quinn


The first day of the NCAA men's basketball tournament came and went and I was 13-3. Fortunately the three losses involved teams I had picked to lose before the weekend was out. And that is the key to the big money. Unless the hand of God is involved everyone is going to lose a few games. If one of your teams lose, it better be one that you picked to lose in the next game. Stop the bleeding immediately. Don't eliminate any chances of winning more games down the road because you no longer have a team in that region. Yes, it is, after all, a mathematical process.

Day one wasn't without tension. I have Syracuse going to the final four and they barely escaped from UNC-Ashville. By the three minute mark in the second half I found myself screaming at the TV. The thought kept running through my mind that this is what I get for betting on a bunch of sex addicts whose nickname and colors involve that putrid shade called orange. It served me right for ignoring my innate revulsion for anyone wearing that horrid tint. My entire East regional was going down in flames before my very eyes. When you lose twenty five percent of your final four on the afternoon of the first day you are profoundly screwed.

And I maybe still.

Day two brought disaster. Memphis, Virginia and St. Mary's all got whacked. That was bad, but things were going to turn even darker. Michigan was beaten by Ohio. No, not Ohio State, but Ohio. I had them going to the sweet sixteen. Then those treasonous bastards from Columbia, Missouri went into the tank against that traditional power, the Norfolk State Spartans. Missouri, which couldn't win the Big XII football championship, wanted to get into the Big 10. Unfortunately for them the Big 10 has a modicum of good taste, so the Tigers ran off to the SEC where they will be a perpetual second tier team and will spend autumns traveling to places like Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa rather than Ames and Lawrence. O'Quinn was right because I had this bunch of  treacherous malcontents going all the way to the elite eight.

Then there was the coup de grace. I knew it would happen. It always does. While not quite the bracket train wreck as Missouri, Krzyzewski, you vile little snake, your Dukies choked against Lehigh. Why is it every March I feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick the ball while Lucy is holding it. Well Mike, I hope you like the idea of Cameron Indoor Arena painted brown and white. Yes, those are the colors of Lehigh and you remember my promise don't you? I'm loading up the car with case after case of brown and white spray paint. I'm driving to Durham and one morning very soon you are going to wake up to a God awful sight. All those gray stones painted brown, all those blue seats suddenly transformed into a brown and white checkerboard. You've screwed me for the the last time you scum. Vengeance WILL be mine.

I need an aspirin.

3-17-12

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tragedy, Lawyers, Rage and Conspiracy Theories

Few real details have emerged in the tragic killing of 16 Afghan civilians by a member of the U.S. army. What we do know is that he has lawyered up and that the attorney, John Henry Browne immediately went on TV to begin pleading his case. That shouldn't be any surprise, because that is what high profile guys do and this will be as high of a profile case as it can get.

The G.I. remains unidentified for security reasons and is apparently en route to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The New York Times reported he was initially moved to a detention center in Kuwait. When the Kuwaitis found out about his presence on their soil they went berserk and demanded he be removed immediately. That should also come as no surprise. The spectre of large scale rioting every where in the region looms like a huge blood red sun on the horizon.

Browne, who previously defended serial killer, Ted Bundy appeared with Matt Lauer and clearly indicated that the primary defense would be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Browne claimed that after a third tour in Iraq the soldier had been in training to become a military recruiter, but was shipped off to Afghanistan practically over night. He said the defense will focus on "how we treat G.I.s and whether we should have been there in the first place." In other words he is going to put the war on trial.

Among other things Browne said that the soldier had suffered a concussive head injury and lost part of a foot in Iraq. That he was screened for PTSD and while he had been cleared, the testing was minimal. He told the AP that the day before the massacre the accused had seen a friend get his leg blown off. He said rumors of marital problems were "absolutely untrue and offensive," but then he claimed that stress, alcohol, and cryptically, "domestic issues" were all contributing factors.

What he didn't say is that the guy didn't do it.

Meanwhile Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan is raging that the U.S. has not cooperated with the Afghans during the investigation. He has questioned darkly whether only one person was capable of the atrocity, playing to some witnesses who claim at least one other G.I. was involved. He also wants U.S. personnel removed from all villages and confined to major bases in the country.

This rumor of a second killer is going to gain legs with the locals. In their minds the entire U.S. military is at fault, therefore there must have been more than one person perpetrating the crime. Conspiracy theories are being hatched as I type. Before it is over there will be some in Afghanistan who believe it the whole thing was personally ordered by Barak Obama and an entire brigade was involved.

Browne can rant all he wants about PTSD and successive tours and the carnage of war, but quite honestly there is no way this guy is going to walk, or even end up in some mental institution. No, the very best he can hope for is life and even that verdict will set off riots across Afghanistan. Those people want blood and they want it now. The subtleties of the American justice system, even the military variety, are lost on them. An insanity plea will be just another bull shit excuse. God only knows what the depths of their outrage will be if a verdict of innocent by reason of mental defect, or whatever the army calls it, comes in.

At this point there seems there is nothing we can do right over there. They are tired of us and obviously at least a tiny portion of the U.S. contingent is tired of putting up with them. This atrocity is the latest and deadliest in a series of increasingly foul and stupid acts committed by American troops.

No, it  is only going to get worse and it has to end as quickly as possible. Screw the time tables and carefully laid plans.

Someone, preferably the president of the United States, has to stand up and yell, "Olly olly ox in free."

Then everybody gets to come home and we can have a parade.

3-16-12

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Santorum Hangs In, Romney Inches Forward And Newt is Odd Man Out

Well two things happened yesterday in the race for the republican presidential nomination. One, Mitt Romney continued to prove he is loathed by the carnivores on the right side of the party. Two, Newt Gingrich is done.

Gingrich isn't admitting his campaign is doomed. At least he isn't publicly. He is still babbling about the possibility of emerging as the nominee if there is a brokered convention. The problem he has with that sly plan is that it is more than likely he has won his last primary. It stretches credulity to believe the party would hand the nomination to some guy who finished a fading and distant third because it can't choose between Romney and Santorum. No, if it comes down to that sort of apocalyptic choice republicans are going to go with a fresh face all together. They will check the box, none of the above and try to talk Chris Christie into a run. Sarah Palin will probably preen for the spot. However, not even the most brain addled delegate is going to seriously consider the former Alaska governor for anything more important than a first day speech at say 9 AM when there will be as few witnesses as possible.

In his heart of hearts Mr. Gingrich must know he is finished. Of course he has all the morals of a car jacker, so he might be running some sort of scam on Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who have banked rolled him to this point. Who knows what kind of money laundering operation is at work. Off shore numbered accounts are a distinct possibility. Why not? Stash away a few million from the campaign and when no one is looking hop a Lear jet with Callista to the Caymans and chill out in comfortable retirement. After all it is what Nixon should have done. Unfortunately for the rest of us, like Nixon, Gingrich's ego won't allow for such an unseemly flight. So in the end I'm afraid we're stuck with him. And so is Rick Santorum.

The former senator from Pennsylvania won in Alabama and Mississippi, but the presence of Newton Leroy Gingrich cost him 12 delegates in each state. Those are 24 delegates committed to a hopeless loser and Brother Santorum needed every single one of them.

Romney won in Hawaii, the alleged birthplace of Barak Obama and in American Samoa. His count keeps inching upward. He can't end it quickly, that has been proven. However at this juncture all he needs to do is keep it close. Keep splitting state delegations with Santorum and the early lead he built up will prevail.

Right now the count is Romney 495, Santorum 252, and Gingrich 131. Ron Paul has 48 and ceased to be any sort of factor weeks ago, except perhaps in his own delusional fantasies.

Next up is Puerto Rico and then Illinois. Santorum has all ready admitted that winning a majority of votes in Abe's home state "will be an uphill battle." In other words there aren't that many born again Southern Baptists and Pentecostals in Chicagoland who have innate suspicions about Romney's politics and religion.

It is hard to see how he can catch up, although he doesn't actually need to. He just needs to keep Romney under the 1144 votes it takes to nominate before the convention begins. At that point he will be in a position to offer Gingrich everything, other than the presidency, to get his delegates. God only knows what sort of monstrous bribe it will take, but it will have to be done. It is the nature of the business.

3-14-12

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Extreme Insanity and Ugliness: It Is Time To Leave

And then reality came crashing back down with a terrible vengeance. After a day away from all the horrid insanity there comes word that a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan went completely off his nut. By the time he was done he is alleged to have murdered 16 Afghan civilians, a number that includes 3 women and 9 children.

Conflicting versions of what happened are rampant. Some say he just walked off the base, did it, then returned to confess. Another version is that he walked away from duty at a remote outpost. An Afghan soldier then reported this to the American base which mounted a search mission just as news of a killing spree started to filter in. According to this report a search party found him laying prone in an open field. When asked about the incident he is alleged to have said, "I did it." Then moments after he was dis-armed and taken into custody he demanded a lawyer and refused to speak further. Obviously the media doesn't know for sure, but the second account sounds far more plausible.

The army has refused to release his name until charges are brought, but the word is he is a staff sergeant serving with The Stryker Brigade out of Washington. He is, according to reports, 38 years old, married and the father of 2. While this was his first deployment to Afghanistan he'd had spent 3 previous tours in Iraq. His wife and children have been relocated and are currently under federal protection.

No one knows why it happened. At least not yet. There will be many theories and few facts. Rumors are all ready swirling. He suffered brain trauma in Iraq during a vehicle roll over that, depending on what you read, was either serious, or minor. He and his wife were having severe problems and he'd received disturbing emails and or snail mails from her. He just cracked after four pressure packed combat deployments. It never is as cut and dried as we'd like to make it, so there is no telling at this point. Apparently there were no signs of medical or behavioral problems leading up to the tragedy, or at least none that anyone is admitting to. Before it is all over odds are there will be people saying there were all sorts of signs there, but they were ignored for a myriad of reasons.

Massive batteries of psychological tests will be performed on this guy before he is brought to trial. However an insanity plea of any sort is going to be utterly unacceptable to the prosecutor assigned to this case. The Afghans are all ready demanding that he be tried by a local court. That won't happen, but what also won't happen is that he gets some sort of leniency based on his emotional and or psychological state. With tens of thousands of troops now at heightened risk because of this and other incidents not as deadly, but quite honestly incredibly stupid, look for the U.S. to seek the maximum.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has all ready said the death penalty is an option. Barak Obama, commander in chief, the man who will have to sign the death warrant in case of a conviction, has publicly said the U.S. takes the killing of Afghans as seriously as the killing of Americans. At this point there is nothing else either of them can say. There are currently six U.S. service members on the military death row. None of them killed as many as 16 people. The last soldier of the U.S. Army who was executed was hanged in 1961. He was charged with rape and the attempted murder of a 11 year old Austrian girl.

Given the stakes and the the vulnerability of American forces in country there really is no choice other than seek the death penalty. If this man did it he WILL get the hot shot and probably sooner than later.

The war in Afghanistan, unlike the one in Iraq, was completely warranted and justifiable. We had been attacked on our own soil and the mastermind of the attack was being sheltered and protected by the Taliban regime. There isn't one civilized person, outside of a few goofs on the ultra left, who didn't believe that. However, once we whacked Bin Laden it was time to come home. Obama promised to wind things down and to an extent he has, but events have proven that a slow wind down has just created an extremely ugly ending to what began as a just conflict.

No, it is time to leave Afghanistan.

It is time to leave now.

3-13-12

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring Arrives: The Big Dance Is On

So here I sit on an absolutely gorgeous early spring day contemplating all manner of things. The Mitt won Wyoming, but tanked in Kansas. Tomorrow Alabama and Mississippi loom large and could put a dent in his lead. His people say only an act of God will prevent him from winning the nomination. They maybe right, but then Rick Santorum believes he is God's man in this race, so who really knows.

What I do know as I watch the pear blossoms fall and the tree next to the patio begin to bud out is that right now I could give a rat's ass about politics, crime, fascists, fools, and homicidal beasts. What I care about right now is the NCAA men's basketball brackets that I just printed.

Yes, it is that time. The NCAA basketball tournament is the single greatest spectacle in sport anywhere on the planet. All the other tournaments and playoffs pale in comparison. Oh sure there is that BCS single game championship in football, but unless your school is involved the interest in it is only passing and possibly academic. The Super Bowl? Not even the ads were that good this year. The NCAA basketball tournament involves a staggering 72 teams. They come from every corner of the country. Well, with the exception of  the state of Oklahoma this year. There are power houses, imposter's, and Cinderellas. There are the knowns and the unknowns and there is only one thing certain. Of the 72 teams entered, 71 will end their seasons with a loss.

It is one and done. None of this 3 out of 5, or best of 7 namby pamby stuff. Have one off game, throw one errant pass, toss up one too many bricks from the free throw line and you go home. The only places more unforgiving are the African veldt and the deep blue seas. It is eat or be eaten. The lame and infirm are stalked, dragged down and become the evening's meal. By the end of the first four days just the swiftest and most skillful predators will be left.

Every expert, fan, casual fan, and absolute novice will be picking teams in the next couple of days. Vast sums of money will be at risk. Entire work forces will go AWOL this Thursday and Friday when the real action starts. Sports bars will be jammed as their big screens hum with one game right after the other.

I usually go with the favorites. My one hard rule, which is always pick Villanova in the first round, is moot this year. Nova didn't even make it in. There is always the urge to grab onto some mid major, or outsider and run with them. Yes, nothing is more satisfying than watching some gang of out casts take down a big boy and witness everyone elses brackets going up in flames. Of course it is a risky business. The big boys are big for a reason. Xavier might be an exotic pick, but even if they do handle Notre Dame they will more than likely run into Duke the very next game. Although in the back of my mind are the sad memories of more than one edition of Dukies ruining an entire region for me. No, Duke cannot be trusted, ever. Believe in them and they'll choke at the worst of times. Bet against them and they appear to have five NBA players on the floor. Kansas is the same way. Bill Self's teams have made magnificent runs and then some years collapse in their first game to some bunch whose members aren't even good enough to play fraternity intra mural ball in Lawrence.

That is why no one is really good at filling out brackets. Too many teams, too many variables, too many once in a million years match ups that go the wrong way. That is why it is fun. It is the grandest of escapes and no one loves escapism like Americans do.

So let me alone the rest of the afternoon. I must allow the sun to warm my face as I ponder the outcome of the Gonzaga-West Virginia contest among others. You see fun is a serious business and it should never be left to amateurs. It takes complete concentration. The effort must be maximum.

And just remember this, Krzyzewski, you little weasel. If  Duke screws me again I will personally  paint Cameron Arena the colors of the team that did them in.


3-12-12

Friday, March 9, 2012

Crazy For Wild Joe Kony

Joseph Kony is a bad and crazy guy. He is the head of something called the Lord's Resistance Army and for the last twenty-six years he's been running completely amok in Uganda and a couple of other central African nations. Much of his "army" apparently consists of kidnapped boys. His guys swoop into a village grab up the eligible recruits then kill their parents and neighbors so the kids have no one to go back to. He also kidnaps girls for use as sex slaves. Naturally you have to keep the rank and file's morale up somehow because I'm sure the pay he is offering isn't on a par with other "armies."

I'll admit right now that until this morning I'd never even heard of this crazed beast. The internal affairs of Uganda isn't high on my reading list. It is safe to say I was in the vast majority. That is until a fellow named  Jason Russell came along. Russell is a bright young film maker and an activist with the San Diego based organization, Invisible Children. Russell knows his craft and he and his people know it is a brand new age when it comes to communication and spreading the word about your cause. His twenty nine minute documentary, "Kony 2012" has not, as far as I know, aired on any TV station, at least not in full. It has been released on You Tube and something called, Vimeo. Between the two sites the film has taken nearly 70 million hits. That is roughly 69,999,016 more views than this blog has.

According to Russell his aim is to make Kony famous because once everyone knows about him they'll do something to drag him into the dock at the International Criminal Court. He has all the starry eyed exuberance of a true idealist. He is and has been speaking to young people about Brother Kony and the plight of the kids in Uganda, infusing his audiences with an all too familiar gushing enthusiasm and purpose.

As far as getting the word out, he has for the most part achieved his goal. People such as Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna, and Jason Bieber have been tweeting about the film to their tens of millions of followers. George Clooney made a brief cameo in the production as did our old pal, Senator James Inhofe. Joseph Kony, the Lord's Resistance Army and the children of Uganda have become the latest American craze. It is suddenly oh so in to despise this guy and to do something, anything, to feel like you are helping out. Bracelets and posters are being hawked by Invisible Children.

Of course there are critics. There always are. Questions have been raised about just how much of the money being raked in is actually going to Uganda. Some doubters have thrown out the figure 32%. Invisible Children says a little over 80% goes to its "mission" The latter figure is probably true in one sense. However the first figure is also true. The problem is, as Ben Keesey, the CEO of the organization admitted on TV, the "mission" includes production costs of the film and promotional costs which include everything from posters, bumper stickers, and bracelets to the salaries of Internet mavens. By the time those are covered only thirty percent or so actually gets to Uganda. Which in the end is no small thing. After all it is more than they were getting and at least now they are at the beginning of their fifteen minutes.

In the film Russell claims that young people can and will change the world. He knows the new technology. As he points out, right now Facebook has more members than there were people on the planet just 200 years ago. Everyone can talk to, well, everyone. The future is full of hope and commitment. I do wish him luck. However without trying to sound like a complete cynic, I've been there before. Changing the world that is. It really didn't work out. After all, I'm stuck with Inhofe, who, when not wanting to run Joseph Kony to ground, claims global warming is a socialist scam and questions the birth place of Barak Obama.

Estimates are that Joseph Kony's army has kidnapped over 66,000 children the last 26 years. He wants to turn Uganda into a theocracy ruled by his interpretation of the ten commandments. He tells his "soldiers" that if they draw a sign of the cross in oil on their chests before battle bullets cannot hurt them.

So sure, put the brute down. Just remember this, young Mr. Russell and all you avid children out there. You can kill Joseph Kony. You can capture him and try him for crimes against humanity. You can put him away where he'll never harm another human being. Then, guess what? We'll make another one just like him somewhere else. We always do. That is a part of the world that never changes.

3-8-12

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Holy High Rollers and The End of the World

The Reverend Harold Camping has decided to get out of the second coming business. One can hardly blame the 90 year old head of  "Family Radio".  He first predicted the end of the world would occur on May 21, 2011. When we all showed up for work on May 22nd, he revised the prediction to October 21 of the same year. And--apocalypse oops--it didn't happen then either. Unfortunately there were people who actually believed Reverend Camping. They quit their jobs and gave away all their savings to--who knows--maybe Harold Camping.

When pushed for an explanation, Camping says he sinned and will make no more predictions, presumably leaving such forecasts to the Mayans, or evangelists who are a tad more media savvy. Unfortunately for his marks, he didn't offer any refunds. Hey, in the business of God there are no returns when it comes to salvation. You pay for the ticket and you take the trip. If you don't, welcome to the Great Tribulation.

Kenny Copeland knows all about the no refund policy. The former chauffeur and pilot for Oral Roberts has made enough money his "ministry" went out and bought a 20 million dollar Cessna Citation X jet. It is unclear if Brother Copeland considered doing something else with all that cash--like, you know--feeding the poor. He also built a private airport, "Kenneth Copeland Airport" in Fort Worth. It serves private aircraft and their owners in what is, no doubt, first class style. Copeland preaches what is known in the trade as "the gospel of prosperity". In other words if you give him a huge chunk of your money the Lord will reward you with wealth beyond your wildest dreams. It is rather like a spiritual version of the Power Ball Lottery.

It is also a subtle twist on the message his mentor, Oral Roberts preached when Roberts tried to distance himself from the faith healing end of the industry. Roberts first built a university, one which Michele Bachmann attended for a while, then he constructed a useless sky scraper which was supposed to house both a hospital and serve as a monument to himself. All of it was payed for by his follower's "seed money." Yes, give me your cash and God will reward you. Be patient and trust me. If the Lord in Heaven doesn't make a large deposit in your checking account your faith has been insufficient.

I could go on and on. Benny Hinn was and presumably still is such a ruthless con man only cosmic shills like Paul and Jan Crouch of the Trinity Broadcasting Network would associate themselves with him. Hinn, who has a hair do apparently made of cement, has unsuccessfully predicted the death of all homosexuals, Fidel Castro in the 90's, and the end of the world in 1992. He claims his ministry is anointed by God to heal the sick and infirm, but his assistants routinely refuse to allow those with obvious disabilities, such as people confined to wheel chairs, on stage. Anthony Thomas, who made a documentary of the Hinn ministry has said when they followed the "pastor's" tours they found no evidence of healing. The end conclusion by Thomas? "He has done more damage to Christianity than the most committed atheist."

Yes, it is an ugly scam perpetrated by only the most stone cold sociopaths. Back when I worked at a hotel reservation center there was a supervisor who, by all measure, was scum. He claimed he was a professional photographer on the side. He used to coerce his female employees to pose either topless, or nude for him. A couple of days after each "shoot" he'd bring the photos to work in order show everyone what the women looked like undressed. When a discussion of TV evangelists arose one day during lunch he said, "I know I haven't sunk as low as I can, because I haven't gotten into that."

Indeed.

Everyone has limits.

Ok, at least almost everyone.

3-8-12

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Race Staggers On

So the Mitt has put some distance between himself and the field, but he still hasn't delivered the knock out punch. He may not have it in him to do so. It has become crystal clear Mr. Romney is simply unacceptable to huge numbers of the far right. Fortunately for him that growling mob can't settle on any one guy to be their man. The conservative vote is splintered leaving the door open just enough to allow him to continue his grueling march to the nomination.

Rick Santorum has begun to publicly appeal to the power brokers of the right to put heat on Newt Gingrich to drop out. He knows he and Gingrich are dividing totals that could belong to him for the most part. He also knows that he is running out of time and states. While he came within a hair in Ohio, he still lost. He carried Oklahoma, Tennessee, and North Dakota but beyond that he was clubbed like a drunken sailor caught in the wrong alley. He was no where close in Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts and Vermont. He wasn't even on the ballot in Virginia.

Next week there will be caucuses in Kansas and Missouri and primaries in Alabama and Mississippi. While the former Pennsylvania senator had success in Tennessee, his performance in Georgia was abysmal. It is hard to tell if the heart of the old south will buy into his cultural jihad message.

On the other hand it will be increasingly hard for anyone outside of hard core Newt groupies to support a man who is obviously not going to win. If you are desperate to stop the Romney grind to the top, you don't want to throw your vote away on a loser. Gingrich has won only two states. One was his home, the other is right next to it. While he could argue he made respectable third place showings in Oklahoma and Tennessee, third place doesn't get you squat. Every where else he got whacked.

Ron Paul has become such a non factor that if he dropped out tomorrow it is difficult to say whether anyone would even notice he is gone. In Virginia where he had the field to himself and Romney he only got 40% of the vote. That was his best showing by far of the night. When six out of ten people are telling you no, you need to be selling used cars, not running for president.

Romney now has 415 delegates. Santorum has 176 and Gingrich has 105. Paul has 47 who will be going to the convention just for the open bars in the hospitality suites and the hookers.

It wasn't the end game, but it may have been the beginning of the end. While scads of republicans don't like Mitt Romney it doesn't appear there is anyone who can stop him. It is starting to feel like he is a slow drip of water gradually wearing down a stone. It takes forever, but it inevitably happens.

If he wins in Kansas and Missouri he can probably start to work on his acceptance speech. If Santorum can't win in Alabama and Mississippi, the search for a Romney running mate will be on.

3-7-12 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Look Ahead at Ominous Numbers

While the republicans tear at themselves with bloody claws and fangs normally found only on vampires it is easy for the democratic faithful to feel good about the general election. After all, the republicans seem hopelessy fragmented. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich are doomed and Santorum is out there on the fringe. Romney seems completely unacceptable to much of his own party and despite spending untold millions still can't put the other three goofs away. Well, at least he hasn't yet.

The economy is in a slow, but steady recovery right now and Obama's approval ratings are on the rise. Democrats seem on the verge of doing their happy dance. All is well. Victory in November is assured.

Not quite yet.

The recovery is fragile at best. A prolonged and severe spike in fuel prices could bring it to a screeching halt, not to mention shift attention toward an energy policy that can at best be described as cerebrally vague. That green tint you see on it might be fine for your average environmentalist, but Walt, the assistant sporting goods manager at Target isn't going to give a rats ass about the environment when he is paying $5 a gallon for gas. And he isn't going to blame the oilies. No, he is going to blame the guy in charge.

Then there is the prospect of all out war between Israel and Iran which could plunge the entire middle east into a conflagration the likes of which haven't been seen since 1941. Obama is walking a very fine line. If the Israelis think for a minute he hasn't got the situation under control all hell will break loose. The war in Iraq will seem like nothing more than a name calling contest compared to what would happen in the worst case scenario.

Beyond all that there is a geographic numbers problem for the president. Four years ago he won 27 states and the District of Columbia. Among the 27 were all five New England states. Assuming Romney will at some point put the Santorum nonsense to rest, he is going to be a much stronger candidate than McCain could ever be in the northeast. He served as governor there and it has been his back yard for years. In addition Obama won Michigan, which is the de facto home state of Romney and Nevada which has a large Mormon population. The president also won New Jersey which now has a powerful republican governor, Chris Christie who is in Romney's pocket.

Does anyone else see how this might go? Those tea party rubes in places like South Carolina and Oklahoma might not vote for Romney in March, but they damn sure aren't going to vote for Obama this fall, or any fall. Outside of Florida, the only southern state Obama won four years ago was North Carolina and that was by the barest of margins.

It isn't that far fetched to envision Romney winning Massachusetts and a couple of other New England states, then winning in New Jersey, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and perhaps Indiana. It is outright science fiction to think Obama is going to win Texas or practically any of the other places he didn't carry four years ago.

No, after all this republican infighting, they'll kiss and make up, or at least stop slashing at each other and look toward the common foe. Democrats can't count on Romney to utterly screw the pooch when he chooses a running mate like McCain did. Complete idiots like Sarah Palin come along only once every generation or so.

This thing is going to be close and whoever the republican nominee is, he will have more money than God available to him for the campaign.

Everyone on the left needs to take a deep breath. It is winnable, certainly, but don't ever believe it is going to be easy.

3-6-12 

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Eve of the Storm

Yes, now is the time to put up or shut up for the republicans still left standing in this blood soaked primary season. It is the eve of the storm that might bring the race to an end, or muddle things so hopelessly that a brokered convention becomes a very real possibility.

Over the weekend Mitt Romney ran away with Washington with 38% of the vote. Romney pulled in 30 delegates to 5 for both Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. That means going into tomorrow he has twice as many delegates as does Santorum. Paul and Gingrich are so far back it would take miracles of biblical proportions to get them back into this thing.

The poll numbers heading into the next twenty four hours look especially disastrous for Newton Leroy Gingrich. To survive, or at least remain marginally credible, he must have a huge day. Right now he leads in Georgia, but is running third in Tennessee and Oklahoma. He isn't even on the ballot in Virginia where Romney has a prohibitive lead over Ron Paul. If those numbers hold true the Adelson money could be a thing of the past. Sheldon maybe many things, but he isn't stupid. You don't buy oats for a dead horse.

Santorum, who also isn't on the Virginia ballot, leads a tight race in Tennessee and has a double digit advantage in Oklahoma. If he can convince Gingrich to get out after failing tomorrow with the promise of some sort of cabinet post, or ambassadorship he could well pick up Alabama and Mississippi next week and cut into the Romney lead.

Unsurprisingly Romney has a huge lead in Massachusetts, but his major problem remains painfully obvious. The ultra conservative wing will simply not vote for him in a primary. After months of constant campaigning and millions of dollars he has not sold them on either his policies, or his credentials. If he wins the nomination he will almost certainly have to pick some raving right wing loon as his vice presidential candidate.

That leads us to Ohio. The poll numbers there show what is essentially a dead heat between Romney and Santorum. The cold fact is whoever the republican nominee ends up being, he is going to win the south, or at least the vast majority of it. The election in November is going to be decided in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Indiana. The logic has been that Romney is the only republican who can win in those states against Obama. However, if he can't carry Ohio against Santorum, not only does he lose a chunk of delegates, but that argument begins to fray badly at the edges.

The truth is the republican core has drifted so far to the right if Mitt is the nominee he may well be the last "moderate" to ever represent the party of Lincoln. When you listen to republican town hall meetings where someone such as Sen. Tom Coburn is questioned sharply about why he is even being civil toward Barak Obama you get the idea of what kind of mob is in charge now. Not even Barry, by God, Goldwater would be able to stomach this horde of howling werewolves.

If the question isn't answered tomorrow, or at least in the next two weeks, there is no telling what will happen, or who will survive. Look for Valium sales to spike later this afternoon. Many are called, but only one is chosen. It is the nature of the beast.

3-5-12

Friday, March 2, 2012

The ME Clams Up and Romney Takes Five

Then the Medical Examiner said, nope.

In a story appearing in the March 2nd edition of "The Oklahoman" written by Bryan Dean,  a spokeswoman for the state ME's office has backed off a statement issued on February 28th about the release of Carina Saunders' autopsy. On Tuesday the office said a full autopsy report of Saunders' death would be released within two weeks. Now the ME is insisting that the report will remain sealed.

The Oklahoman quoted the spokeswoman as saying, the state attorney general has advised the medical examiner that release of the autopsy "has a substantial likelihood of doing irreparable harm to the criminal investigation."

Why the state's attorney general's office is now involved in what would appear, on the surface anyway, to be strictly a county matter was left unexplained. According to The Oklahoman, the ME's office cited an exemption from the Oklahoma Open Records Act for information in the files of the Board of Medicolegal Investigators "that may be hearsay, preliminary unsubstantiated investigation related findings, or confidential medical information." That is a mouthful  of legalese and it covers a lot of ground. The whole autopsy is hearsay argument appears especially bogus. It sounds suspiciously like there is either more to this entire gruesome affair than the public or media knows, or the investigation is so hopelessly bogged down that any sort of charges, even those not using the word murder, cannot stand up to the burden of truth at this time.

Speculation can and will run completely amok at this point. It could be Oklahoma County prosecutors and Bethany police are simply in over their heads and need more eyes, ears, and brains on the case. Or it might be Saunders' murder ripped the lid off of some wide ranging undercover operation. It wouldn't be the first time local cops stumbled smack into some larger agency who has been working on the sly to fry very large fish. It may even be that the Bethany police didn't have the clout to tell the ME's office to hold the report. That they had to request the AG's office to step in to stop it from becoming public. Whatever the reason it is obvious somebody is thinking that any sort of information released beyond the barest minimum is a threat to what the authorities are doing and where they are going. Where they are going, or trying to go, at this time, is any one's guess.

In the mean time up in Michigan the numbers shifted in that primary for reasons not entirely clear to anyone other than the grand and exalted poo bahs who run the republican party. The count went from an 11 to 11 tie to 16 delegates for Romney and 14 for Santorum. The Santorum people are threatening to appeal. It won't do him any good. The Ron Paul conspiracy theorists might be right this time. The fix could be in. Any time it has been very close outside the borders of Iowa things have fallen Mitt's way. It is painfully transparent that the republican establishment is determined that Romney has to be their guy. In today's "Oklahoman" columnist Charlie Krauthammer was alternately giddy over the Michigan results and scathingly critical of all things Santorum. The city daily endorsed Romney weeks ago. The plan is utterly simple. Don't let someone from the lunatic fringe be the standard bearer. That will secure the independents and middle ground increasing the nominee's chances in the swing states. Trust that the right, when faced with the prospect of four more years of Obama, will bitch, moan and grumble, but ultimately support Mitt.

The crunch is coming for all involved. The next two weeks should tell the tale of the tape. If it doesn't, crack open the champagne. Barak Obama is buying.

3-2-12    

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Judge's Joke and What a Knee Slapper It Is

"Normally I don't send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards it was a bit touching. I want all my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine."

from an email sent by Federal Judge Richard Cebull



His Honor was forwarding along a joke to six of his friends. It goes like this: A little boy said to his mother, Mommy how come I'm black and you're white? His mother replied, don't even go there Barak! From what I can remember about that party you're lucky you don't bark."

Oh yes, quite touching. But only if your heart is genetically identical to that of a rabid hyena.

Cebull doesn't consider himself prejudiced, they never do, at least not openly. "I don't think I've ever demonstrated racism. Nobody has ever even implied it," he is quoted as saying.

Guess what judge. You've demonstrated it now and there are plenty of people not only implying it, but screaming it to the heavens.

Cebull is the chief federal district judge in Montana and was appointed by our old pal George W. Bush. He is busy trying to kiss and make up for the email right now, saying things like, "I apologize to anybody who is offended by it and I can obviously understand why people would be offended." The honorable judge went on to say, "I didn't send it as racist, although that is what it is. I sent it because it is anti Obama."

Obviously the joke itself is hatefully over the line, however the most frightening part of the email was all that, touched my heart, hope it touches yours too, bull shit that he started with. In those lines you witness the true and ugly soul of a racist.

Don't think there aren't plenty of them out there. And they aren't necessarily burning crosses either.  Back in the day when I used to hang out at a couple of different cigar store lounges this sort of mind boggling  poison was spewed privately all the time. When you are white and pushing toward social security, a lot of other old white guys just assume you are on their side. Things are said that are straight out of Mississippi circa 1959. Everyone laughs. Everyone shuts up when a black customer comes in. Everyone treats him with perfect courtesy. Everyone denies they are racist.  Then it is all repeated time and time again.

You scratch the heart of about ninety percent of those tea party yahoos who pour out onto the streets and you will find the same thing. As they hold a sign depicting the president as a 1930's Hollywood caricature of an African witch doctor, bone through the nose, wearing an ostrich feather head dress, they will look you square in the eye and say they aren't racist. Don't believe them.

That is what is ultimately at the rotten and hysterical core of the "birther" movement. Barak Hussein Obama is black and  his name sounds foreign, therefore he isn't one of us.

And now, according to a federal judge appointed for life, he is lucky his mother didn't screw a dog.

Sometimes I fool myself into thinking we've turned the corner on race relations in this country. In some ways I suppose we have. Of course, then something like this comes along to remind me all the stupid savagery is still here. You can change the laws, but apparently you can't change hundreds of years of prejudice until multiple generations go the way of the Dodo.

One of the last things the learned jurist said was, "It was not intended by me in anyway to become public."

I bet not. There is more than one closet out there. Richard Cebull just came tumbling out of his. Good luck the next time an attorney with a black client and half a brain appears in your court, judge. Can you say the words, "recuse and appeal?"

How long oh Lord, how long?

3-1-12