Monday, September 30, 2013

The End is Near: Stepping Off the Cliff

So it has come down to the wire. The tea party controlled House of Representatives sent a "compromise" budget bill to the Senate. It didn't defund the Affordable Care Act, but would have delayed the start of the program for a year. In other words until the next budget needs to be passed. You don't have to be a genius to figure out as soon as the new year ends, the tea party mob would repeat the same ruthless act of extortion they are engaging in now. Senate democrats immediately knew this was a cheap, not to mention transparent, con and according to MSN they just rejected it.

These clowns just don't get it. Barak Obama ran on the promise of passing the ACA in 2008 and he won. He ran on the pledge of keeping it in 2012 and won convincingly a second time. The law passed both the house and the senate and was found constitutional by the Supreme Court. It isn't some debatable concept, or bill any more. It is the law of the land. Ladies and gentlemen of the right, either repeal it, or get over it. Just stop screwing with the pay checks of every active military man and woman and the jobs of upwards to 850,000 federal employees.

The most recent poll shows nearly six in ten Americans oppose defunding the ACA if it means having to shut down the government to do it. It is fairly easy to see why. Besides stiffing GI Joe and Jane, it is estimated nearly half of the civilians employed by the Department of the Defense will be furloughed. The FHA which is involved with 30% of all home mortgages in the country will be unable to approve any new ones and there won't be any more small business loans subsidized by the government.

Beyond the immediate economic impact, the Food and Drug Administration will have to suspend routine safety inspections, the Special Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children, other wise known as WIC will shut down, and there will be delays in processing new social security disability claims. The Center for Disease Control will also be hamstrung and their ability to identify and investigate outbreaks of diseases will be limited. Don't plan on that fall trip to Yellowstone either. All national parks, monuments, and the Smithsonian will close. If you're already camped at one you'll be given 48 hours to get out.

This is happening because all manner of right wing clods are running around screaming that the government is trying to take over the health care system here in the United States. They have bombarded the airwaves and their wide eyed followers with a campaign of disinformation and outright lies that is impressive in its scope and boldness. They don't even seem to care if supporters of the Affordable Care Act point out the falsehoods they are spewing. They just keep blathering away and when challenged the only thing that changes in their argument is the level of their volume control. It is as if they believe he who yells loudest and shrillest must be telling the truth. They are the equivalent of a child covering his or her ears and shrieking in order to avoid hearing something unpleasant, like a command to, " go brush your teeth."

The fact is well over 40 million people in the country don't have any health insurance at all. Three years ago the average American spent $8,233 per year on health care. In Norway, the Netherlands, and Switzerland the average citizen pays around $5,000 per year and everyone else in the other developed countries pay less. At this moment it is estimated 20% of all Americans have had, at one time or another, trouble paying their medical expenses. In the UK the figure is 2% and in France it is 9%. And, despite right wing mythology, any fair comparison of the level and quality of health care shows the United States isn't the best in the industrial community of nations. We continuously rank somewhere in the middle, to lower third.

Beyond that there is a moral factor involved which some of these "born again" Christian types seem to ignore completely. What Ted Cruz and the rest of the buffoons are saying is that if you need to change to a different health care carrier, through no fault of your own, and you have a pre existing condition, ie cancer, even if in remission, or type 1 diabetes, you're screwed. Yes, Sarah Palin might bay at the moon about government "death panels," but what she isn't telling you is death panels already exist. They are called insurance company actuaries. They aren't there to help you. They're there to make sure the outfit they work for can turn a really big profit. If it means you die because the stats say you are too big of a risk to insure--well that is capitalism at work, baby. Buck up, at least people will never accuse us of being socialists.

A couple of weeks ago a wise man told critics he supported the Affordable Care Act because, "When you reach the gates of heaven, St. Peter isn't going to ask if you made the government smaller. He is going to ask how many poor people you helped."


See you at the bottom of the cliff tomorrow.


Friday, September 27, 2013

What is Important: Boomer Sooner

The Senate voted 54-44 in favor of  a stop gap budget resolution today which will allow the government to continue to function until the middle of November. Before the vote democrats deleted the provision which required the defunding of the Affordable Care Act from the measure. Ted Cruz got mad and now the whole thing goes back to the house where John Boehner has about as much control over the radical right wing yahoos in his party as he does the weather in Sri Lanka.

But, if you're a fan of the University of Oklahoma football team you don't give a rat's ass about that. You know what is important.

Here is how it is. This is a dusty place subject to searing heat and bouts of brutal cold. There are only a little over three and a half million people in Oklahoma. Nearly half us live in two metropolitan areas, which leaves an awful lot of empty space when you consider the state has 69, 989 square miles. The great depression traumatized us so much that a hefty chunk of the population moved west to California. As John Steinbeck chronicled, those Oklahomans who went, the Okies, weren't exactly welcomed. For decades there was very little to do here. Hell, you couldn't even buy a bottle of whiskey legally until around 1960. The only real release was athletics. We dove into sports both as participants and fans. We became addicted to games. We have never shook it.

It is a little different now, thanks to Clay Bennett bringing the NBA and the Thunder to Oklahoma City, but traditionally the big sport has been college football. And since those rubes up at Oklahoma State just recently figured out how to play the game, college football pretty much meant, OU football.

When you grow up as an Oklahoma Sooner fan you are inundated with glorious stats that  are usually dated from 1946, because before then the University of Oklahaom was the portrait of mediocrity in the sport.

Stats like, since 1946 the team has won more games than any other major college program, has a higher winning percentage and has had more consensus all american players. There have been seven national championships. Then we come to the winning streaks. Since 1946 (what did I tell you about that year) Oklahoma won 31 games in a row, then a few years later won a breathtaking 47 games in a row and finally, twenty or so years after that won 28 straight.

The fly in the ointment has always been Texas. They are such an arrogant and obnoxious outfit that most people, even in their home state, don't like them, so you can just imagine what we think of them.

However, the greatest bugaboo of them all, the one team that will drive an old time Oklahoma fan into a rage quicker than anything else on the planet is Notre Dame.

Notre Dame is the kryptonite. It is the ebola virus and the swine flu all wrapped up into one. It is Attila, the fucking, Hun.

As I type, Oklahoma has played Notre Dame in football 10 times. I was six years old the one and only time we beat them. That was so long ago neither team had a black player starting on their squad. It was so long ago, Christopher was still a saint and milk was hand delivered to your door three days a week. One year after that win, Notre Dame was the 48th game in the 47 game winning streak.

My father is 88 years old and is the person who taught me I should never judge a person by the color of his or her skin, that segregation was inherently wrong, and republicans are generally cruel and unusual people. This same man, whose father was a devout Roman Catholic, to this day, refers to Notre Dame players as, "those God damned fish eaters." His grandmother was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland and he will invariably look at a Notre Dame Fighting Irish line up and in disgust tell you, "There isn't an Irishman anywhere on that God damned team." Yeah, he uses those two words a lot when it comes to Notre Dame.

So what is important right now for many in the Sooner state is that in a scant few hours Oklahoma will play Notre Dame for the 11th time. Ted Cruz can caterwaul all he wants, the government can grind to a halt, and the great apocalyptic asteroid can be only four days out from slamming right into this blue ball, but all that matters is that our guys take the field in South Bend tomorrow.

The beer has been bought, as have the chips and dip. Kickoff is set for 2:30 pm Oklahoma time. The memory of last year and all those previous nightmares sit with OU fans like some collective malignant tumor poisoning our guts. There is only way to exorcise this particular demon. There is only one cure for the itch we haven't been able to scratch.

It is, quite simply, beat God damned Notre Dame!

And while we're at it, Boomer Sooner!


Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Ted Cruz One Man Show

I'll have to hand it to that sly little Canadian bugger. You see all this time I thought, Ted Cruz was actually trying to kill the Affordable Care Act and was just too stupid to realize he couldn't possibly do it.

Obviously I was wrong. After witnessing parts of his ego fueled marathon in the Senate, a performance best described as a twisted, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington/Triumph of the Will" hybrid, it dawned on me, the whole fighting Obamacare thing is nothing more than political theater--a complete and utter sham. The extended speech was, in fact, the equivalent of a one man Broadway show, titled, "Ted Cruz is Great and He Should be Running Things."

What transpired over parts of two days had nothing to do with stopping the ACA. Oh make no mistake, Obamacare was the excuse, but even if it didn't exist Cruz would have found some other reason to stand in the Senate for hours on end listening to his own golden voice. When he compared other Senators to professional wrestlers and members of his own party to people who tried to appease the Nazis in the late 1930's with concessions, he was doing nothing more than establishing himself as the ultimate reality TV superstar. He wasn't speaking to the Senate any more than I am right now. He was addressing, the ultra right wing, who he thinks will carry him to the GOP nomination and the white house in 2016. While assuming everyone believes the left is bad, he was in effect casting aside the republican establishment and painting them as old, decadent, and devoid of passion. He was saying to the Sturmabteilung, You are the people and I Am Your New Leader. Together We will rule the homeland. Somewhere down the line expect a spirited talk about America for Americans.

The AP ran a photo of him after he delivered the speech. It was the epitome of the image he wants the masses to see. There he was, standing in the middle of a crowd of reporters, microphones offered on all sides, looking as a visionary might--chin tilted slightly upward--gazing far off toward a new and better horizon. Goebbels himself couldn't have asked for a better snapshot of his man Adolf.

Yes, it appears the evil little twerp not only wants to be president, but also granted
 the title of Messiah.

Democrats derided his reading of the Dr. Seuss book, "Green Eggs and Ham." Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill claimed her daughter sent her a message saying, "Mom does he not know the point of the story?" Chuck Schumer of New York said the same thing, "Green Eggs and Ham has a moral: don't criticize something, don't reject something until you actually try it."

Both of them missed the point. Cruz is so impressed with himself that minor ironies are completely beneath him. He was delivering a dramatic reading to show the torch lit crowd he is not only a man of steel and endless bladder control, but wonderfully paternal. He was, in those horrible moments, telling us he can be the warm and kind father to all of America.

The republican old guard might hate the guy, but they are scared of him and those like him. What we might be seeing here is the emergence of a new Joseph McCarthy--a brute demagogue whose only goal is to tear the fabric of the nation apart. He certainly has the addiction to attention McCarthy had. And he most assuredly is looking to establish a new order.

If there is a light at the end of this terribly dark tunnel it is at some point Ted Cruz is going to have to face a crowd which isn't so adoring. He has been doing nothing but preaching to the choir so far and in 2016 he is going to have to pick up some votes from people who don't walk around wearing tee shirts that say "Don't Tread on Me."

Indeed, he may play well in Texas, Oklahoma, and someplace like Mississippi, but New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida could be different stories.

A couple of days ago I accused the Senator from Alberta of not being able to count. It has become evident he didn't even bother this time out because winning the battle wasn't his aim. No, he is looking ahead to the big prize and right now he is attempting a power play which will marginalize his GOP opponents in the hearts and minds of the uber right.

Luckily for all of us, my assessment remains the same. He still can't count. He'll find that out in three years when the numbers really do mean something to him.

acta deos numquam mortalia fallunt


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Teddy Cruz Can't Count: The Grand Plan Begins to Flounder

Here is how nuts, Ted Cruz is. He has spent the last several months preaching to mobs of tea party wankers, telling them he and fellow conservatives would force the defunding of the Affordable Care Act, by threatening to shut down the entire government. During that time he convinced himself and his fans that all the people of this nation, even the ones who don't, clap, hoot, howl, and cheer in his presence will blame the shut down entirely on Barak H. Obama, the President of the United States.

At his incessant urging, his pals in the House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution that permits a stop gap budget, but only so long as the Affordable Care Act is monetarily stripped bare. Now that the bill, nicknamed the CR, has hit the senate, it has finally dawned on Teddy Ballgame he doesn't have the votes to prevent the defunding part of it from being deleted out of the resolution. So, in a logic found only in his brain, the Senator from Alberta is fighting tooth and nail to keep the CR from advancing. Yes, that is right, Mr. Cruz got exactly what he wanted and yet he is, at this very moment, trying to keep it out of the grasp of senate democrats through every stall tactic he can think of. One has to wonder if he believes the democratic majority in the senate is going to somehow magically disappear at this juncture--you know, just long enough to let he and his cohorts get the CR passed as is. Perhaps he forgot how to count for a little while and now has suddenly regained his cognitive senses. Maybe, illicit drugs have been in use for an extended period and the hallucinations overcame any tenuous grasp he might have had on reality. Or, in the end, he could just be an idiot without the slightest idea of how congress works.

He has been quoted as condemning, "the tendency toward brinkmanship" in Washington. The definition of brinkmanship is, "The practice of pushing dangerous events to the verge--or to the brink--of disaster in order to achieve the most advantageous outcome." Sort of sounds like what the crazed Canadian has been doing all along doesn't it? Criticizing oneself is odd behavior for a United States Senator, but there he is trying to stop a resolution he is in favor of, so we really shouldn't be surprised at anything he does.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma had this to say about the state of affairs, "This is misleading the conservative base because it is not achievable and all it will do in the long run is dispirit the base. This is a failed strategy for conservatives."

Senator Robert Burr, R-NC put it a bit more tersely. In his words the notion of shutting down the government over Obamacare is, "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of."

Yesterday Bloomberg ran a story titled, "Five Republican Myths on Defunding Obamacare." Number four is that polls show the public supports the defunding of Obamacare. Oops, sorry guys, but it simply isn't true. CNBC commissioned a poll by Hart--McInturff. It showed 44% of Americans oppose defunding the ACA while 38% want it gutted. However, that number changes dramatically when you throw in shutting down the government. 59% oppose defunding Obamacare if doing so takes a government shutdown, while only 19% are in favor and 18% are unsure. In fact, the only demographic which approves of a government shut down to get rid of the ACA is, you guessed it, republicans who identify themselves as members of the tea party.

This, of course, leads us straight to Bloomberg's republican myth numero uno, that shutting down the government will automatically stop Obamacare. According to the publication most of the ACA funding comes from Medicare and Medicaid which are entitlements and they aren't connected to the budget at all.

Cruz has to know that. Hell, I'm sitting here in an apartment in Oklahoma City sucking on a beer and I figured it out. The only conclusion one can come to is that this version of the continuing resolution is clearly a crude act of extortion meant to shame and terrify the president and the senate into submission.

The problem is, Cruz is a slash and burn guy and it is increasingly apparent it is his only talent. He is the Washington equivalent of a two bit vandal. He can fuck up the works, but he hasn't an inkling when it comes to getting things done. Unfortunately, he is utterly convinced he is not only the smartest guy in the republic, but that everyone else is so stupid they'll buy into everything he says because he is--well--Ted Cruz. If he actually thinks Obama and the senate democrats are going to cave into what he wants he is also delusional, perhaps dangerously so.

According to Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, "...we will not bow to tea party anarchists who deny the mere fact that Obamacare is the law. The simple fact remains Obamacare is the law of the land and it will remain the law of the land as long as Barak Obama is president of the United States and I am the Senate Majority Leader."

Even Coburn admits the only way to get rid of the ACA is for republicans to win the presidential election in 2016.

Indeed, The Grand Plan isn't so grand after all. Nearly 60% of Americans don't agree with it. Huge chunks of people in his own party don't agree with it. Barak H. Obama and a majority of the U. S. Senate certainly don't agree with it.

Ted Cruz has his eyes on the big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue in 2016. Given what is going on at the moment, he may find his presidential campaign cut short by about three years. In truth, he is currently being exposed to the public as both a bully and hysteric. And worse--that he hasn't a clue when it comes to how things operate in a democracy.

Hey, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

sic vita est


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Safer in Afghanistan, The NRA Moment of the Week, and Ted Cruz at the Poker Table

Earlier today NBC reported three NATO troops were killed and one was wounded in Afghanistan, proving once again, living and working in a war zone is far safer than walking around in the United States of America.

On Monday, Aaron Alexis, who had been as crazy as a bed bug on acid for years, stepped into the Washington Navy Yard. By the time police killed him, he had shot to death 12 and another 14 were either injured or wounded. Despite a history of mental health issues and at least two previous incidents of gun violence where police had to respond, he had survived a background check by defense department contractor, USIS. That would be the same meticulous outfit who gave the okay to the NSA to hire Edward Snowden. Brother Snowden is currently a resident of Moscow, Russia and wanted by American authorities for making all manner of top secret documents available to the entire world.

Then Thursday, on Chicago's south side, someone opened up with a 7.62 mm semi automatic assault style weapon, which was fed by a high capacity ammunition clip. When the smoke cleared 13, including a three year old were wounded. The shooting occurred in the Back of the Yards neighborhood at a park where a crowd had gathered to watch an evening basketball game. Chicago police superintendent, Garry McCarthy was quoted as saying the type of gun used in the attack, "belongs on battlefields, not on a street corner, or park in Back of the Yards." Given the current casualty rates both in Afghanistan and on the streets of Chicago one would have to agree. To paraphrase an old movie line, "Taliban? We don' need no stinkin' Taliban."

On Wednesday, in what can only be described as, The NRA Moment of the Week, two guys named, Robert Taylor and James Pullum shot and killed each other in a car wash parking lot. They were in a heated dispute because one had been following the other too closely in traffic. Each of these responsible gun owners were licensed by the state of Michigan to carry concealed weapons. Back in 2006, Taylor had his suspended for three years because he was convicted of driving under the influence while he was armed. He reapplied for a new permit in 2010 and was promptly granted one.

Well of course he was. After all, we're not a bunch of communists here. This is the United, by God, States of America. If you don't own a gun, get one. You might as well. Everyone else is packing and nobody, absolutely nobody, is going to stop you from buying it.

Finally, in Washington the house passed a measure that gives the federal government a budget for the next fiscal year, but only if the Affordable Care Act is defunded. The legislation now moves to the senate, where the most vocal proponent of this act of extortion, the mad Canadian, Ted Cruz, sits waiting for its arrival. Unfortunately for tea party enthusiasts everywhere, Mr. Cruz has already admitted he doesn't have the votes to get the bill passed as is.

Some republicans in the center, most notably Peter King of New York are calling Cruz things like a fraud for whipping the conservative hoi polloi up into a frenzy over the bill which stands absolutely no chance making it out of the senate in it's current form. Speaking wishfully, King was quoted as saying, "He'll (Cruz) no longer have any influence in the republican party."

That seems a tad over the top. The fact is Cruz, a man of condescending smarmy smiles, who exudes supreme arrogance, believes he can blame a government shutdown entirely on Barak Obama and everyone in the nation will buy it.

It is a big gamble and he is going all in, not with his money, but the salaries of every man and woman in the military, not to mention hundreds of thousands of other federal employees. There is, at this time, no indication of how the general public--you know people other than the clods who show up at Cruz's town hall meetings--will react. There is a hint though.

The only previous time the senator from Alberta really fucked up was during his college career at Princeton. As a freshman he proved himself such a sucker at the poker table he had to borrow money from a relative to pay off his debts.

Being sure you're right can take you far, but when you become convinced everyone else is stupid it is guaranteed you'll eventually go careening off a cliff. As the man said, "When you bluff, you must be prepared for your bluff to be called."

And there we have it. Another week is in the books and we're all still here, at least at the moment.

As always, stay low and keep moving. There is no such thing as paranoia any more.

sic vita est


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Crazies and Cowards: The Grand Plan

Here is the situation in a nutshell. A few years ago the president proposed a major shift in the way health care is administered in this country. It is called the Affordable Care Act. Congress passed the legislation. The president signed the bill and later, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled it was constitutional. Now, as in right at this very moment, ultra conservative elements of the republican party do not recognize, or accept the decisions made by all three branches of the federal government. In others words, fuck the constitutional process. We don't want the Affordable Care Act and we'll use any and all means at our disposal to get rid of it.

Up until now that has been nothing more than a ludicrous series of votes in the house of representatives, over 40 at this point, to repeal the ACA, also known as Obama Care. After each vote the legislation moved to the senate where it died a quick death.

Now some of the bright bulbs in the house and the senate have decided to use the annual budget vote to get their way. The Grand Plan is to simply not pass a new one--in short, shut down vast portions of the federal government, unless the president agrees to completely defund the ACA and render it useless. In most places this is known as extortion and is a felony. It is a ruse the right wing has used before. It hasn't worked out well for them in the past, but most of these statesmen can be considered clinically brain dead and therefore devoid of any sort of memory.

Pundits on the left are claiming a move like this will cost the GOP seats in congress next year, but the truth is a year in American politics is rather like a geological epoch. By November 2014 this year will have about as much relevance to the average voter as the Jurassic Age. Besides, if recent history has proven anything, these tea party jihadists don't give a rat's ass about polls and what the general public thinks. There is no such thing as the long term for them. Like most criminal minds they are completely obsessed with instant self gratification and never take into consideration the consequences for either themselves, or others. They see the watch in the window, want it, then find a brick to heave through the glass.

The chock ful o' nuts wing isn't in the majority, however their numbers are large enough they can kill any sort of plan which doesn't suit them. The guy who supposedly is their leader, John Boehner has about as much control over them as he does the Gulf Stream. They are a run amok mob and compromise does not exist in their vocabulary.

So, in 12 short days, barring some sort of unforeseen breakthrough, the feds will run out of operating cash.

When that happens several things will occur. One, if you're serving in the military in a place like Afghanistan you'll still have to dodge incoming fire, but you won't get paid for it and unless your spouse has another source of income your family will be screwed. All the national parks and monuments will shut down. Passports will cease to be issued, or renewed. The FHA will have to stop approving home loans and about 800,000 people will be furloughed and out of work. In addition, if you have a refund due from the IRS you're stuck, because it will shut down also.

The president, congress, and their staffs will continue to work, but without compensation. There is no guarantee of anyone receiving back pay unless a rider is attached to a future budget that is approved, so without one there is no recourse to recover salary lost during the shutdown.

In anticipation of a backlash GOP members have already begun laying the blame on Obama by saying he is the one holding up the budget because he won't give in on this single issue. This is a tactic usually reserved for torturers and mobsters. The old, I wouldn't have had to hurt anyone if he'd just done as he was told, excuse. Or, as Rocco might say, "Hey, if you'd signed with our garbage pick up service, your place wouldn't have burned down."

The truth is these terrible brutes know they have to stop the ACA right now, before it is fully implemented. They and their keepers can't afford to let people actually use it, grow comfortable with it, and realize everything the right wing has said about it is a collection of grotesque fabrications.

Those of us who were around in the 60's, when medicare and medicaid were introduced, know the political ancestors of the current republican party were howling the exact same things about those programs. Hand wringing was widespread and the voices shrill--the country was doomed because we were socializing medicine. The government would destroy the greatest health care system in the world--you know, the one very few people could afford.

If these clowns were to attempt to get rid of medicare and medicaid now their political careers would be over in a heartbeat. They know the same thing is coming with the Affordable Care Act.

Republican party policy is currently controlled by a hand full of media cranks who have never served in congress and whose only talent is to roil up the masses with glib one liners and outright lies. The establishment is petrified of them, the NRA, and some rube back home who will run around screaming he is the real conservative in the next primary. What is good, or bad public policy has nothing to do with how the old guard votes any more. It is all about survival in this, the age of the uber right.

The crazies and the cowards--those are the two wings of the GOP at this moment. And the crazies are winning.

Don't think so? Just ask the soldiers sailors, airmen and marines in 12 days when their families run out of grocery money.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Something Evil Once More

There is something evil in our society that we ,as Americans, have to try to eradicate.
Dr. Janis Orlwoski, Chief Medical Officer of Washington Medical Center: the hospital that treated three of the wounded the day before yesterday.

It only took nine months and two days for us to produce another one, or at least another one who made it to double digits. On December 14, 2012 Adam Lanza ran amok in a small New England town. On September 16, 2013 Aaron Alexis did much the same thing in Washington D.C.

At least, Alexis picked a tougher target. The Washington Naval Yard has security all over the place and there aren't any babies huddled in classrooms. The body count had reached 12, less than half that of Newtown, before authorities nailed the beast. Eight others were injured, three of them by gun fire.

Aaron Alexis bought a shotgun last week from a gun store in Lorton, VA. It was a legal transaction, but then every gun sale in this country seems to be legal, so that isn't anything new. He'd been allowed on the base because he worked for Hewlett Packard as a defense department contractor and had proper ID. He used the shotgun to kill a security guard at the entrance of the Sea Systems Command Headquarters. He took the guard's hand gun and somewhere in the building latched onto a AR-15. Witnesses say he didn't utter a word as he opened fire on a cafeteria area and other locations within the building.

The rest of it is so numbingly familiar it is almost as if we could use the same background story over and over and just change the name. Aaron Alexis was 34, a former navy petty officer who had been treated at a VA hospital for a variety of mental problems, including sleep deprivation, anger issues, and paranoia. Reports are the navy gave him a general discharge as opposed to an honorable one. He'd been written up for absent without permission from work, insubordination, and disorderly conduct during his time in the service.

His father claims he was suffering from post traumatic stress because he'd been a rescuer in New York City during the 9-11 nightmare. While that hasn't been confirmed, it is known he was living in New York at the time of the attacks.

Friends are stunned, one so much so he initially disbelieved it was Alexis who did it. Another talked about how he liked to stay in his room alone playing video games hour after hour, "you know, the ones where you shoot people."

As always there were other signs. In 2004 he was popped in Seattle for shooting out the tires of a car. He claimed the owner had, "disrespected" him. Other reports say he told Seattle police he had suffered, "an anger induced black out." In Ft. Worth in 2010 a neighbor called police after Alexis fired a gun in an apartment. Prosecutors dropped the charges when they bought the excuse the weapon went off accidentally while he was cleaning it. They said he didn't appear to be reckless. A friend told the press he had a concealed carry permit for a hand gun when he was living in Texas. As late as August 7th this year, Alexis complained to Rhode Island police that people were talking to him through the walls and ceiling of his hotel room and someone was sending microwave vibrations through his body to keep him from sleeping.

Authorities claim they are still searching for a motive, as if there is one out there that will make any sense. There have been unsubstantiated reports Alexis had either just lost his job, or was in the process of being laid off because the work he was doing at the yard was being relocated to Colorado. Whatever the case, the only thing we can be sure of right now is the guy was bat shit crazy and had been for quite some time.

So, to sum up just another day in the life here in the good old U.S.A.--we have a former sailor who had discipline problems, who had anger issues, who had been treated at a VA hospital for mental disorders, who was listening to voices coming through walls, who had told police microwave vibrations were keeping him awake, and who had previously discharged a weapon on a street during a, "blackout." Then, because a bunch of bellicose twits demand there be no meaningful restrictions, or background checks on gun purchases, this demented goof was able to walk right into a Virginia store and buy a shotgun as easily as he could have bought a six pack of beer at a neighborhood 7-11.

At the end of her statement to the press, Dr. Orlwoski said, "This isn't America. This isn't Washington D.C. This isn't good."

Well, you went one for three there, Doc. Tragically, Aaron Alexis and his ability to get a gun, any gun, and his willingness to use it during a murderous walkabout is, beyond a shred of doubt, exactly what America and Washington D.C. are. A more perfect portrait cannot be painted.

If you don't believe me, I have the statistics to prove it. Or, you can just pick up a phone and call someone in Newtown. They'll explain it to you.

mors vincit omnia


Monday, September 16, 2013

It is Better to be Rich

It is good to be king. It is better to be rich.

Forbes magazine released it's annual list of the 400 richest Americans today. There were some familiar names there and some who the general public has never heard of. All in all it is a glittering array of users, abusers, vampires, and right wing fanatics, spiced here and there with a few souls who chronically feel guilty about being fabulously well to do.

Of course feeling a tad guilty about things like huge wealth shouldn't be that difficult considering some of the statistics available. However, as we all know, it is an eat or be eaten world out there. Let's face it only the most savage and ruthless survive, which usually means something like a conscience is quickly discarded, if it was ever there in the first place.

The hard and brutal truth about America is that 10% of the total after tax income in this country is made by 0.1% of the workforce. In terms of wealth disparity--you know the gap between richest and poorest--the United States ranks well behind Europe and the UK and even places like Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt. Take heart though, the difference between the haves and have nots is slightly greater in Uganda, and Jamaica. The trouble, some might argue, is it isn't getting any better. In fact at this point the divide is at its widest since the great depression.

NBC reports the combined wealth of the top 400 has doubled to $2.02 trillion in the last 10 years. To put that number in perspective the same report notes the figure is roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product of Russia. The average net worth of people on the list is $5 billion. In fact the atmosphere at the Glam 400 Golf and Squash Club is so rarefied this year, 61 American billionaires didn't even make the list. You bet, the bar has been raised. The hoi polloi now includes people, who in other lands, would own entire governments and their armed forces.

The 9th through 6th richest people in the United States all have the last name Walton. They are the kids of Big Bill Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. Their combined wealth is $136 billion divided not quite equally among them. If you go to work in one of their stores, chances are you'll be making $7.46 per hour before taxes. Top end pay for a sales associate is $11.10 per hour. During your first five years there you can count on getting one week of vacation per year. After 10 years of dedicated service to the company you'll get a little over two. The web site, "Payscale" indicates their employees, on average, earn 3% less than current market value.

Tied at 4th on the list are the Koch brothers out of Wichita, KS. They are the same guys who sent threatening letters to the employees of at least one of their companies last fall. Chuck and Dave told their rank and file workers if Mitt Romney didn't win the presidency thousands of their jobs would be at risk. Together they are worth $72 billion.

Our old pal Sheldon Adelson slipped in at number 11 on the list. He is worth $28.5 billion and last fall was willing to spend millions to get, Barak Obama defeated. Unfortunately a big chunk of that money was bet early on a worn out nag named, Newt Gingrich. By the time Sheldon changed horses things had already begun to slip away.

Ol' Rupe Murdoch, the Fox News owner was number 30. He is worth $13.4 billion and spends every second of his time making sure his cable news network is completely committed to telling us anyone to the left of the aforementioned Mr. Romney is a by God communist sonofabitch.

A guy named Fred DeLuca is number 193. He is worth $2.8 billion. He owns Subway, the sandwich shop chain. That man or woman behind the counter who is building the foot long Italian sub of your choice on freshly baked bread is making on average $7.57 per hour. The store manager pulls down an average of $10.57 per hour.

On the other side of the coin, or rather, coins, Michael Bloomberg, current mayor of New York City and anti assault weapon maven is ranked 10th with a net worth of $31 billion. The big bugaboo among all right wing fringe conspiracy theorists, George Soros is number 19 and worth $20 billion. The Grand Prize Winner is Bill Gates who has about $72 billion in his wallet and is so diversified now, Microsoft only accounts for 5% of it.

Despite the occasional philanthropy, most of these ogres and the shameless shills who work for them would have us believe, Barak Obama and the left wing are driving the republic straight into the gaping black maw of socialism. Indeed, that Islamic commie bastard is fucking up the entire socio-economic class system that made us great and those Ivy League egg heads and Hollywood freaks are in on it with him.

Can't you tell?

Well, probably not while you're making $7.46 per hour, which is why they really need you to either buy into their bullshit, or not be able to vote--preferably the latter, because, honestly, the working poor can't be trusted in such important matters.

Legend has it, back in the mid 1950's, after a University of Oklahoma football game, some guy manning the sports desk at the local paper received a call. This was before there was wall to wall TV coverage of college games. The caller asked him about the outcome of the contest. When the newspaper man told him OU had won by 21 points, the indignant reply was, "That's all?" Then the conversation was abruptly ended when the receiver at the other end was slammed down.

At the time Oklahoma hadn't lost a game in nearly four seasons. Without even considering his observation might be a tad racist, the reporter turned and asked a co-worker, "How much rice can a Chinaman eat?"

If you're on the list Forbes released today, apparently, you can eat it all and still want more. And then, at least some of you, can get really mad when someone says something about gluttony.

Welfare society, my ass. Karl Marx is spinning in the grave as I write.

sic vita est


Friday, September 13, 2013

A Win in Missouri, A Loss in Colorado, and Raffles in Bixby

In the United States, according to federal law, it is illegal to possess, or acquire a firearm if:

1, You are under indictment or have been convicted of a felony.
2. You are a fugitive from justice.
3. You're an illegal alien.
4. You are using or addicted to controlled substances.
5. You are subject to a domestic violence restraining order. (there are some exceptions)
6. You are a veteran who has been discharged under dishonorable conditions.
7. You have been adjudicated mentally defective, or been committed to a mental institution.
8. You've renounced your United States citizenship.
9. You've been convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence.

Yes, I know. Those restrictions sound pretty darn reasonable don't they?

Apparently not to republicans in Missouri. The GOP controlled legislature passed a law that stated, "any federal policy that infringes on people's rights to keep and bear arms shall be invalid." It also included a clause which stated any agent of the federal government who tried to enforce said regulations pertaining to weapons was subject to arrest by state authorities. In addition it threw out any and all background checks and made it illegal to publish a gun owner's name.

Another by-product of the law would, in effect, eliminate all federal restrictions and taxes on fully automatic weapons--thereby allowing any rube on the north side of St. Louis who has a grudge to go out and buy something along the lines of say, a pre-owned M-60 machine gun.

Jay Nixon, the democratic governor of the state, vetoed the legislation for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the notion every drooling psychopath and convicted gang banger in the country could now come to Missouri and legally buy a gun. The republicans tried to override his veto, because--well--they're nuts They came up one vote short, but promised to keep trying.

I'll have to admit that even considering legislation like that seems utterly insane to me, but I suppose we should take our victories, no matter how small, and celebrate them. After all, look what happened in Colorado this week.

After the mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown, CT, the democratic controlled legislature there passed a bill which limited ammunition clips to 15 rounds and expanded background checks to include private and online weapon sales. The governor signed it into law and the, Can't Get An Erection Without My Gun crowd went wild with anger.

Recall petitions were circulated targeting four senators. Supporters failed to get the required number of signatures in two districts, but managed to set up a vote in two others. Both of the targeted democratic state senators, Angela Giron and John Morse were unseated on Tuesday.

Despite huge amounts of money spent on the campaign by both sides the turnout was small. In Giron's district only 30% of the voters went to the polls and in Morse's a mere 15% showed up. Normally Colorado allows mail in ballots, but didn't in this case.

A news photo showed one recall supporter holding a sign that read, "Guns Save Lives." It is unclear if the person holding it also believes there is no link between smoking cigarettes, heart disease and cancer.

Closer to home, a Bixby, OK youth sports program held a raffle the other day. According to the tickets being hawked by the group and it's youngsters, the grand prize was a hand gun. Later Jason Clark, the president of the program, said the tickets had been misprinted. The actual prize was a nice fat gift card to a gun store. Clark also assured everyone he had checked with authorities about "liability issues" and the winner could indeed buy a hand gun after passing the required background check. He said he was puzzled by the attention this year's raffle had garnered because the group had done the same thing previously. He advised the media that $3,800 had been raised and the money would go to a fourth grade football team.

Slate and @GunDeaths are reporting that as of yesterday at least 8,041 Americans have been shot to death in the last nine months. However the study notes, when factoring in unreported suicides and accidental firearm fatalities, the true number is estimated to be triple in size.

Total U.S. combat deaths in both Afghanistan and Iraq, after twelve years of war, stands at 6,441.

But hey, we're free. At least that is what the NRA says.

sic vita est


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Zimmermans Acting Badly--Again

I don't know what he is capable of. I'm really, really scared.
Shellie Zimmerman to a 911 operator during a confrontation with George Zimmerman

Actually we do, so being scared probably wasn't uncalled for.

Yes siree, you can't keep that boy off TV, or the internet any more. In fact George Zimmerman seems to be in the news just about as much as Bashar al-Assad, the slick muckety muck who runs Syria.

From acquittal, to aiding fellow motorists, traffic violations, divorce, and now a domestic dispute with his soon to be ex-wife, he is all over the place. It would seem the media has become addicted to him, rather the same way they are fixated on other odd and narcissistic personalities. Indeed, it appears Brother Zimmerman has entered that strange and somewhat queasy realm inhabited by people such as the Kardashians, O.J. Simpson, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Honey, by God, Boo Boo.

The only question we should probably ask ourselves at this point is, does he want to be there? That answer is hard to ascertain right now. However, as all those other names can, or at least should be able to tell him, the media isn't there because they like him. They are there to watch him fuck up--the bigger, the better.

What went down Monday between Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman was the sort of shameful display many will say they refuse to witness, but in reality, it is the type of road side tourist trap none of us can turn away from. You know, the one with the faded billboard somewhere in the deep south, or out in the desert that says: SEE LIVE SNAKES HERE!!!

According to NBC, Shellie and her father showed up at a house the family had been staying at to pick up some personal belongings. Unfortunately, her estranged husband arrived at the location before she left. An argument ensued. Nothing odd there. I've been down that road once myself.

Things quickly began to turn violent. Both, according to sources, began recording the escalating fight via iPad, or cell phone, or some other means. Shellie claims George popped her old man in the nose, "leaving a mark." She also says he grabbed her iPad, cut it with a pocket knife and smashed it beyond repair.

She called 911 and told the dispatcher, "He is in his car and he continually has his hand on his gun and he keeps saying 'step closer.' He is threatening all of us with his firearm."

The cops arrived and ordered Zimmerman out of his vehicle. No gun was found. Later a police spokesman said it was possible Mrs. Zimmerman was in a state of fear and assumed George had a weapon. Why sure. I mean, honestly, when hasn't he had one?

During questioning at the scene--and you knew this was coming--our man, George Zimmerman, the former captain of the neighborhood watch, claimed his wife was the aggressor and she threw her iPad at him. In other words, he was the victim. Hey, when you've sold that line before, run with it until the well goes dry.

No one has figured out where George's recording of the incident is, or if one even exists. EMT's arrived at the scene and while the father did have a red mark on his nose, he didn't need treatment--proving once again, G.Z. can't deliver a punch.

After the dust settled everyone decided they didn't want to file charges. Police say they have the final call on if and what charges might be filed, but at this time have no hard evidence of exactly what happened.

It is easy to make fun of these clowns, but I shouldn't, because there really isn't anything funny about them. Shellie Zimmerman pleaded guilty to perjury after she intentionally misled a judge about the family finances before her husband's trial. Mark O'Mara, the attorney who got George off, is now trying to force the state of Florida to pay his legal fees, despite tens of thousands of dollars that were contributed by an untold number of rubes to his client's defense fund.

Then there is George Zimmerman himself. He is the media freak du jour not because he is rich, or some Hollywood C list loser run amok. He is in the camera's eye because he shot to death an unarmed teenager who was simply trying to walk from a 7-11 to the place he was staying. He is, in the end, the perfect poster boy for everything vile, stupid, and wrong, not only with the NRA, but the entire American gun culture.

In most civilized places George Zimmerman would be doing time for manslaughter, or the local equivalent of it. But here he is loose on the streets and in the eyes of many a hero.

Welcome to fame, American style. No wonder vast numbers of people loathe us.

sic vita est


Monday, September 9, 2013

Getting Close in Syria and Even the Lone Ranger Needs a Breather Once in a While

It is getting close in more ways than one. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says a vote concerning Syria will come Wednesday. No, it isn't a vote on the actual resolution, it is a vote on whether to proceed to the resolution. A sort of testing of the waters if you will.

Before that occurs Barak Obama will confer privately with senate democrats Tuesday afternoon to rally the troops and then in a prime time address make his case to the American people.

The resolution itself limits American action to 60 days, with a one time extension to 90 days if the president can convince congress the military needs it. In addition it prohibits American troops on the ground in Syria and requires the administration to submit a comprehensive strategy to congress for, "achieving a negotiated political settlement" to end the conflict. It also requires a complete vetting of opposition groups before any aid can be offered to them. In the words of the resolution, aid would go only to those groups who, "share common interests and values with the United States."

Earlier the Russians, in an effort to stave off any military action, publicly proposed to the Syrians they should put their chemical weapons under international control. The initial U.S. response was cool at best, with at least one administration official saying it was nothing more than a delaying tactic. However, someone on Pennsylvania Avenue must be rethinking that stance. None other than Hillary Rodham Clinton emerged from a meeting with the president and said such a move would be, "an important step." She also described the situation as being, "fluid."

Meanwhile, PBS' Charlie Rose went to Damascus and interviewed Bashar al-Assad on Sunday. The entire conversation will be aired tonight, although parts of it have been shown on CBS.

When asked if there would be attacks against American bases in the mid east after a U.S. strike against Syria, Assaid answered a bit cryptically. "You should expect everything," he said, "everything--not necessarily from the government. The government is not the only player in this region. You have different parties, you have different factions, you have different ideologies.

Rose pressed a little and asked if any attack would involve chemical weapons. Assad responded by saying, "That depends if the rebels or any other terrorists groups have it, it could happen."

That's our boy Bashar. He is still denying his troops used chemical weapons and while saying an attack with them could be launched against American interests, he is telling us he is sure it would come from the very people the air strikes are supposed to aid. Most experts believe the "different parties" he is referring to is Hezbollah and Iran, both backers of his regime and widely considered a bunch of wild eyed assholes

At this point, despite all the rhetoric, the reality remains the vast majority of Americans don't want a piece of this action. In fact if you were to travel to your local bar in this, or any other burg and run a survey, you'd probably find that Joe the plumber doesn't care one whit if Assad used chemical weapons on his own people or not. In truth, some may even like what he did, because to them the only good Arab is a dead one.

Yes, Harry Reid can tell us, "America's willingness to stand for what's right should not end at our borders," but there is no shaking the feeling in tens of millions of American guts that no matter which side wins, they are going to end up hating us anyway. Indeed--screw 'em and while you're at it bring me another beer.

There are some in congress, Oklahoma's Jim Inhofe for one, who are using this for political ends. Inhofe was an exuberant supporter of the Iraq adventure when his guy was in office. There weren't any questions about policy and plans from him then like there are now. As for the rest of us, we just understand how ruthless that con job was and how people like Halliburton gleefully shook us down for billions of dollars while it was going on.

In the end, Syria--despite the assurances, despite the horrific photographs, despite even the possibility there is a genuine need for us to do something--still looks like another black and deadly hole to a vast portion of the citizenry. It is a deep well we've jumped head long into far too often.

Right and wrong have nothing to do with it. Certainly vague threats about the possible involvement of Hezbollah and Iran have nothing to do with it. We simply don't want to make that trip again. At least not so soon after the last one.

You see, every now and then, even the Lone Ranger needs to take a breather.

And now is one of those moments.

sic vita est


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Big Al Gerhart Goes to Court

Get that bill heard or I will make sure you regret not doing it. I will make you the laughing stock of the Senate if I don't hear this bill will be heard and passed. We will dig in your past, yoru (sic) family, your associates and once we start there will be no end to it. That is a promise.
An email from Al Gerhart, Sooner Tea Party co-founder, professional carpenter, and now accused felon, to a state legislator

That was the electronic message that landed Mr. Gerhart in court on Friday. The charge is blackmail. Big Al sent the subtle note to Oklahoma state senator and fellow republican Cliff Brannan. The bill he was talking about had been authored by tea party quack and nationally known homophobe, Sally Kern. Kern is in the Oklahoma state house of representatives and she had written and managed to push through the measure, which would prohibit, "any city, town, or county from adopting, or implementing policy recommendations," that were established by what is known as the United Nations Agenda 21 initiative.

As you might guess, most Oklahomans haven't the slightest idea what Agenda 21 is and really wouldn't give a rat's ass about it even if they did. Luckily for us, patriots such as Kern and Gerhart are on guard at the gates. U.N. Agenda 21 is a voluntary and nonbinding program. Voluntary, meaning no one is going to make you do anything and nonbinding as in there aren't any Agenda 21 cops patrolling the skies in black helicopters to enforce it. It deals with a number of issues which are the usual leftist suspects. Health is one--poverty, population growth, deforestation, the rights of indigenous peoples and the empowerment of children and women are others.

To get to the senate floor for a vote, this cracker jack piece of legislation had to make it through Brannan's committee first. The email was Brother Gerhart's way of urging the senator get on top of the situation.

I'll have to admit that up until the moment reporter Nolan Clay of The Oklahoman broke this story in early April, I'd never heard of Al Gerhart. I don't usually hang out with tea party types, at least not knowingly, and in truth, I don't give a shit what the Oklahoma republican party does in private. I have always felt that as long as people like them don't commit overt acts against nature it is none of my business. However, after doing a little research it turns out Mr. Gerhart has quite the reputation among fellow travelers on the conservative side of the tracks. In fact he is utterly loathed by many of them. He has been accused of having no conscience, of being a "destuctor," and guilty of committing indiscriminate acts of slander and libel. And these are the people who vote the same way he does.

It would seem his accusers have an argument. When initially interviewed by Clay for the paper Gerhart said of Brannan, "We want to know what is going on down there. We want to know if his wife has a criminal history. We want to know everything about him. We want to find out if this man is a responsible citizen, if he's even got his family under control, much less his office."

Yes, things get strange at 23rd and Lincoln in Oklahoma City. Brannan gave the email to a highway patrol officer, who in turn gave it to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Gerhart called a press conference and claimed rumors in the senate were that Brannan had done so because he was afraid an "infidelity" would be exposed. Later he said the "scuttlebut" was that Brannan had indeed had an affair with a staffer, gone to his wife to ask for a divorce, then, ultimately, was spurned by the aide. Brannnan, in effect, said it was all bullshit. Gerhart has never offered any proof and at one point admitted he had none.

So now Al Gerhart sits accused of blackmail. During a hearing on Friday a judge refused to throw the charges out and ordered him to stand trial. Gerhart claims the email was free speech. Clay writes he told media members afterward, "Your First Amendment rights are on trial, not just mine."

While that sentiment might sound noble, our man Al has a severe problem. Oklahoma law states blackmail can involve, "a written communication that threatens to expose information about someone which would in any way subject that person to the ridicule and contempt of society. In addition, blackmail occurs if the communication is meant to "extort or gain anything of value from another, or to compel another to do an act against his or her will."

Oops. That line about making Brannan the laughing stock of the senate suddenly seems not only terribly crude, but a tad felonious. Especially after Brannan testified Friday that, while his decision regarding the bill hadn't been finalized when he received the email, he had been inclined to kill it, because, in his words, "I felt it was a solution to a problem that didn't exist."

Clay reports, Assistant D.A. Robert McClatchie asked Brannan, "Did you believe it (the email) was trying to make you do something you didn't want to do?" Brannan answered, "Yes. I definitely felt threatened."

Gerhart is scheduled for another hearing on the 18th of this month. It is unclear if he will wear a crown of thorns when he attends since his transition from vicious bully to martyr has been quick and complete. Indeed, in his mind, he is just another carpenter being dragged toward a cruel end by a ruthless establishment.

At this point all the rest of us can be sure of is that this self proclaimed advocate for the common person currently stands neck deep in trouble. And--in all honestly, from this side of the lake anyway, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

sic vita est


Friday, September 6, 2013

The Week That Was: Fashion Nazis, The Wonderful Boss, Shellie Calls It Quits, Letters From Ariel, and Even More Gunfire

Here is to the late, Sir David Frost--the man who, in the end, exposed Richard Nixon for what he really was. 

Sometimes telling the truth, even in a funny way, causes problems. Just ask comedian and actor Russell Brand. On Wednesday Brand was in London, attending an awards ceremony thrown by GQ magazine. One of the corporate sponsors of the shindig was the German fashion house, Hugo Boss.

Here is what Brand had to say about the company. "If anyone knows a bit about history and fashion, you know it was Hugo Boss who made uniforms for the Nazis. But they looked fucking amazing, lets face it, while they were killing people on the basis of their religion and sexuality." Shortly after goose stepping smartly on stage, Mr. Brand was kicked off the premises for being disrespectful to the good people who run Hugo Boss.

A quick look at Wikipedia provides us with these fun facts. The company founder, Hugo Ferdinand Boss joined the National Socialist Party--you know, the aforementioned Nazis--in 1931. He began the company's proud history of corporate sponsorship when he became one for the Schutzstaffel, other wise known as the SS. By 1933 his company was running a print ad campaign saying that it had been, "A supplier for National Socialist uniforms since 1924." That might have been a bit of braggadocio, but in 1934 the company did become an officially licensed supplier of uniforms to the SS, Hitler Youth, and Sturmabteilung, also known as both the SA and Brown Shirts, plus a couple of other party organizations. During the war the Boss factory became so busy it used 30 to 40 prisoners of war and around 150 slave laborers, mostly from eastern Europe, to keep production up. It was 1999 before the company decided to contribute to a fund meant to compensate people forced into slave labor by the Nazi regime. It was 2011 before it issued a public apology of sorts for ol' Hugo's willing and lively participation in the Third Reich.

Reports are that Hugo Boss paid GQ nearly $400,000 to have its name attached to the proceedings. There is no telling how much money the company annually spends on advertising with the magazine. Whatever the amount, as Mr. Brand just found out, you can fuck with just about anything now days, except a source of income, no matter how foul it's past. Once you've gone there, the very next step is your ass going out the door.

On the subject of bosses, Rochus Misch, who was the personal bodyguard and gofer of Adolf Hitler, died at age, 96 yesterday. Hitler, as you might recall, was the head of that very same Nazi party, Hugo Boss was a member of. According to Misch in interviews and a book he co-wrote, Adolf was, "a very normal man. He was no brute. He was no monster. He was no superman. He was a wonderful boss." Herr Misch claims, as most of these guys have done, he knew nothing about the holocaust and says Hitler never brought the subject up when he was around. According to Misch, "It was never a topic, never." I suppose not. The systematic murder of 10 million people and the creation of an entire bureaucracy to carry it off isn't something you'd probably discuss with your door man and telephone operator. Indeed, spare the little people the details. Besides, loose lips sink ships.

Meanwhile, once again proving fame just isn't for everyone in a relationship, reports are, Shellie Zimmerman has filed for divorce from her husband George. George was last seen being busted by local police for speeding. There is no word as yet if he will plead not guilty and if his defense team is prepared to show he was fleeing for his life from a young black male dressed in a hoodie.

In Ohio NBC News has reported that Ariel Castro wrote a couple of letters to his children back in June. In one he said, "I still can't believe what I did to put me in the situation that I'm in now." It seems safe to say everyone else, especially the three girls he kidnapped and sexually abused for a decade, feel exactly the same way.

Finally, in New Orleans, police arrested Darnell Ramee, 19 and Keelen Armstrong, 24 this week and charged them both with murder in the first degree and attempted murder in the first degree. The two rambunctious youngsters are accused of shooting an 18 year old baby sitter in the back last Thursday. She was wounded, but the one year old child she was holding at the time was killed. The weapon was a 9mm semi automatic. No motive has been established.

Yes, guns don't kill people, but people who have them certainly do. Now, do we get rid of the guns, or the people? I'll leave it to you.

That's it for me. The weekend looms.

Watch out for flying chairs and as Mick Jagger once sang, "When you ride your bike at night, always wear white."

sic vita est


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Human Being in Ohio, Cruel and Unusual in Colorado, Chelsea Wants a Pardon, and More Shots Fired

As we await a decision on the Syrian adventure it seems like a good time to check in on a few old friends and see what they and their lawyers are up to.

Back in Ohio, Ariel Castro apparently took it upon himself to save the state considerable time,  manpower, and expense by hanging himself in his cell. Brother Castro was recently convicted of kidnapping three young Cleveland girls and forcibly holding them in a home for 11, 10, and 9 years respectively. During that time frame he fathered a child by one of the victims. While being sentenced he told the judge, "These people are trying to paint me as a monster. I'm not a monster, I'm sick."

While there was little doubt Mr. Castro was a dark twist not playing with the same deck as most of us, it didn't stop the judge from sentencing him to life plus 1,000 years. He had served about a month of his term before doing the mid air polka. Castro's attorney, Craig Weintraub has pledged to get to the bottom of his client's death, because in his words, "we're civilized." and, "this is a human being."

In Colorado, lawyers representing James Holmes have been as busy as beavers filing motions on behalf of their client. He is accused of shooting to death 12 theater patrons and wounding another 70 at a midnight screening of a Batman movie.

The defendant's counselors have entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, but they know the odds are there isn't a jury anywhere, outside of say Ulan Bator, who will buy it. One of the motions filed challenges the Colorado death penalty. The logic is Colorado executes prisoners so rarely that such a sentence in this case would violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. They point out the state has only executed one prisoner since 1967.

In addition they want the judge to not disallow any prospective juror who is opposed to the death penalty. The reasoning being juries who uniformly approve of the death penalty are partial to the prosecution, biased against the defense, and are more prone to convict. They also are asking that if their client is convicted, the jury must take a tour of Colorado's death row and execution chamber, prior to deciding the sentence. Finally they are requesting the judge ban all victims from testifying during the penalty phase, if it should occur, because their testimony would, "overwhelm jurors with emotion and keep them from relying only on the facts."

Yes, sometimes when your client is so incredibly guilty your options are few and far between. Straws must be grasped at while prayers and incense are offered up to whichever God you believe in. There isn't a person around who doesn't realize James Holmes is as crazy as a gerbil on bad acid. However, there also isn't a person out there who is willing to take a chance he could some day be declared, cured, and once again walk the streets of Denver as a free man.

Meanwhile reports are that U.S. Army PFC Chelsea, nee, Bradley Manning is hoping for a presidential pardon. She was convicted of releasing classified military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks. Private Bradley is, after credit for time served, looking at about seven more years before she can get a shot at parole and the hormone treatments she says she is so desperate for.

And last, but not least, just to prove this still is America, Maryland police say Ryan Shallue went to his ex girl friend's apartment today. An argument ensued and Mr. Shallue, age 21 pulled a semi automatic hand gun, shot Renee Loetz and a friend, Charles Abbott, then turned the weapon on himself. Abbott and Shallue are dead and Ms. Loetz, described as an honor student in the school of nursing at Salisbury University, is in critical condition.

Slate and @GunDeaths now reports that at least 7,873 Americans have been killed since last December, although using CDC estimates the total is probably closer to 23,281.

No wonder Bashar al-Assad is shitting bricks right now. If we do this to ourselves just think of what we'll do to a bunch of Syrians.



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Road to Damascus Part II

I'm going to support the president's call for action. I believe my colleagues should support this call for action.
John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

Normally when the Speaker of the House and his majority leader throw their support behind something it becomes a done deal in the lower chamber of congress. Unfortunately in this day and age there isn't one thing normal about that august body. Indeed, it is rife with crude and demented tea party hacks who don't give a rat's ass what the speaker says, thinks, or believes. Their only goal in life is to make sure Barak Obama doesn't get anything he wants.

Boehner knows this full well and he has left himself a back door out of yet another situation which might show everyone his house leadership is the weakest and most ineffective in recent memory. After he declared his support for a military response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad's forces, one of his spokespersons made it clear, Barak Obama was going to have to be the one to convince the house membership to go along with it. In other words, while Mr. Boehner may vote for a resolution approving military action, he is going to do absolutely nothing to try to influence the people he has no influence over anyway. If the vote fails in the house it won't be because members of his own party don't pay any attention to him, it will be because the president didn't make an effective sales pitch.

Some might call this a rank attempt at face saving, while others, who are more cynical, would probably use the word cowardly. But hey, you say tomato, I say tomahto.

Paul Ryan, who ran for vice president and still sits in the house claimed, "The president has some work to do to recover from his grave missteps in Syria." Mr. Ryan didn't say what those missteps might be, probably because Mr. Obama hasn't done anything in Syria yet. However the statement probably sounded insightful to a few of the dimmer bulbs in his district and across the nation, while doing his ego some good.

Over on the senate side, John McCain said, "A vote against that resolution by congress, I think, would be catastrophic because it would undermine the credibility of the United States and the president." Of course, McCain has never seen a war he didn't want a part of. In fact he is threatening to vote against any resolution that puts too many limits on what Obama can do.

On the other side of the coin Senator Rand Paul, who has a bit of the old isolationist in him, says he won't vote for any resolution that allows the president to use force in Syria. Ted Cruz says he's also leaning toward no, but is open to hearing a debate about the subject. Marco Rubio said something, but everyone is still trying to figure out what he meant and where he stands on the issue. The problem is somewhere down the line this triumvirate of GOP presidential hopefuls could find themselves teetering on the edge of a large crevice with their reluctance to support the president. Right now they can claim they are voting against Obama, but by 2016 Hillary could well be screeching they were voting for Assad--especially if the Syrian leader decides he has a free hand to use whatever weapons he wants against his own population and repeatedly does so.

NBC is reporting a vote on a resolution could come as early as next week. We arrived at this point because the British balked, at least temporarily, the French refuse to, "go it alone," and about 80% of everyone in the country wants the president to get congressional approval before he unleashes the dogs of war once again.

In the final analysis there are very few people on the street right now who want a new fight. The Iraq scam has large chunks of the population convinced there will be more to this than a few bombs and cruise missiles. For many it has all the trappings of another deadly quagmire which offers no quick, or satisfactory end.

They could well be right.

Unfortunately it looks like we're going to find out one way, or the other.