Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Thanksgiving Thought: I Like Tony Rohr

I've never met, Mr. Tony Rohr, but I like him.

According to MSN, Brother Rohr began working for the people who own Pizza Hut as a cook a number of years ago. He rose through the ranks and recently was made the General Manager of an Elkhart, Indiana store.

A couple of days ago he was told his new place had made a "competitive decision" to open on Thanksgiving Day. In their words, "everyone else is open so we will be too."

Tony Rohr had a problem with that logic. "I just decided I wasn't going to agree to it, " he was quoted as saying. He added, "All of these people the whole year had been told they were going to have the day off."

When asked about the other restaurant chains being open, his response was, "Why can't we be the company that stands up and says we care about our employees and let them have the day off?"

While not quite as politically and socially charged as some questions posed by, say, the late Bishop Oscar Romero the pointed query did inspire an immediate response by the Pizza Hut powers that be. Yes, Mr. Rohr is now unemployed.

Well there is capitalism for you. It is what the current Pope recently called, "The idolatry of money."

Sometimes you have to wonder what those family values republicans keep talking about actually are. The list of businesses looking for your shopping dollar on Thanksgiving Day grows every November. The number of employees stuck working on a day no one is supposed to does too. MSN reports this year Macy's, J.C. Penny's, and Staples will all open for the first time in their histories tomorrow. Toys R Us will open at 5pm in the afternoon and K Mart will fire up the cash registers at 6am in the morning. Screw the original meaning of the holiday,  there is a buck to be made.

The only places left in the nation where lawmakers sort of understand the day is meant to be about family is Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. In those states large grocery chains, department stores, and what is termed as "large box stores" are forced to remain closed by law. However even in those parts of New England there is a vast number of exceptions, including, among others, convenience stores, pharmacies, and restaurants like the one Tony Rohr used to work for.

Of course we can't lay it all off on the greedheads who run the chains. This is the weekend when incomprehensible numbers of Americans go a little funny in the head. Teeming masses storm the front doors of places like Walmart as if they were the Mexican army pouring through the smashed gates of the Alamo. Reason, for many, goes the way of the Dodo as some sort of extra terrestrial frenzy takes over. The cold truth is if none of us were to show up the stores wouldn't open, but unfortunately we do--in huge, desperate, mobs. As Walt Kelly once famously said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

It is a new world and I've never been opposed to the world evolving, becoming a better place. Sometimes though I fear we've lost all that is good about the old one in the transition.

People of a certain age remember the past as the good old days because they recall all the best times and none of the worst.

Thanksgiving Day used to be one of those precious few best times. Now, for far too many, it is just another cruddy Thursday.

Indeed. Welcome to the second decade of the 21st century.

Mr. Sulu, you have the con.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Motive for Adam Lanza is in: He Was Nuts

In a report released yesterday the Connecticut State Attorney said Adam Lanza had no clear motive for shooting 20 babies and 6 adults last December at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

That is, in the final analysis, an obtuse way of saying he planned and carried out the deadly assault because--well--he was as nuts as Donald Duck on Nazi crank. I hate to belabor the obvious, but I believe large numbers of the general public, myself included, have already come to that conclusion.

Indeed, very little of what was released yesterday is new. The study decided he picked Sandy Hook to attack for the most basic of all reasons--it was the closest school to his home. He was packing a Bushmaster .223 semi automatic rifle and a Glock .9 mm hand weapon. He fired 154 rounds and had 147 left when he blew his own brains out. He used the rifle on the children and teachers and then the Glock on himself.

The report also notes he was obsessed with the 1999 Columbine High School shooting perpetrated by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. In fact, he was fascinated by all manner of mass shootings and even played a delightful computer game titled, "School Shooting" in which the player controls the video actions of someone running around a school murdering people.

Yes, we either knew all this, or should have forseen it with a fair degree of accuracy during the past 11 plus months. Now, we have to decide what does all the information presented bring us to?

It is very fashionable these days for NRA types to claim mass shootings are not the fault of semi automatic weapons, or high capacity ammo clips, or anything else that might cause reasonable people to think maybe these things shouldn't be sold to the general public. In fact, it is almost guaranteed that after some horrific massacre, some puffy, white faced, National Rifle Association shill will whine it happened because the American mental health system failed us. You bet, if Adam Lanza had been diagnosed correctly he wouldn't have been able to get his hands on a semi automatic rifle and a few 30 round banana clips.

That is, as they say, easier said than done. Young Mr. Lanza's lack of sanity is not in question. According to the report his mother told friends he hadn't gone out anywhere in the three months prior to the killings--that she and him communicated only through emails even though they were living in the same house.

However, she never told a soul she thought her son was dangerous. In fact she considered him such a cute puppy she had written a check so he could pick up a pistol as a Christmas present. It was never cashed because he shot her in the face four times before meandering over to Sandy Hook later that God awful morning.

The truth is, the report says, "He had a familiarity with and access to firearms and ammunition and an obsession with mass murders." It also says, "there is no evidence he gave any indication he'd commit the crime."

What a surprise. He was a lunatic who refused to take meds, or participate in therapy, but, guess what,  he also decided not to walk around telling everyone how he lusted for blood. That might be because really crazy people don't admit they are crazy. If they do, they get locked up.  I mean, you didn't see Seung-Hui Cho telling the clerk at a Virginia gun store, "You know, I think I'll go shoot up the VA Tech campus, or Jimmy Holmes ask a salesperson how effective his newest purchase would be if he opened fire inside a crowded theater.

From the report we've learned the Lanza family dynamic was so twisted the kid told an acquaintance in 2011 he wasn't getting along with his mother because, "her behavior wasn't rational."

Despite all this, no one, not a single person who knew them, saw the nightmare coming.

The Connecticut report says Adam Lanza had significant mental health issues. It also said, "he had been prescribed both therapy and medication, but no health professionals saw any violent tendencies.

In short, it is pretty fucking tough to figure out if someone is dangerously bats.   

So, it would appear we have two choices here. We can chuck every man, woman, and child into an asylum for a little while so a state paid shrink can decide if they're buggy or not. Or, we can restrict the sales of weapons that are the envy of every guerrilla movement on the African continent.

Now, which of those two options do you think is less restrictive, or intrusive upon the rights of the average American?

I can't believe we're still arguing about this.

No wonder much of the world considers us nothing more than grotesque barbarians.

I want a drink.

sic vita est


Monday, November 25, 2013

The Ambassador All Around the World Initiative and the NRA Moment of the Weekend

There is some terrible misunderstanding that's taken place here.
Jeff Newman

Well that happens a lot when it comes to North Korea and Kim Jong-un.

Jeff Newman's father, Merrill is 85 years old and likes to travel to strange places in this world. That is why he was on a 10 day trip to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. He was scheduled to leave on October 26th, but right before take off a member of the North Korean military pulled him off the plane that was due to fly out of Pyongyang. It is the last anyone has seen, or heard of him.

The local authorities have confirmed they have an American citizen in custody, but have refused to release a name, because--you know--there are so many Americans not named Dennis Rodman be-bopping around North Korea at the moment.

The elder Newman's travelling companion, Bob Hamrdla, who was allowed out of the country, says the trouble may have started when Newman and his tour guide were interviewed by some North Korean muckety-mucks the day before he was detained. That would be the exact moment Kim's boys discovered Mr. Newman had served with the U.S. military on the Korean peninsula, during the Korean war. Sort of like the actors in the movie and T.V. show M.A.S.H. except, in his case, it was for real.

Newman's family has said he has a heart condition and needs daily medication. The Swedes, who represent U.S. interests in North Korea, have been trying to get the meds to him, but so far have been unsuccessful.

So, what is to happen? What would those grandiose, yet paranoid, clowns want with an 85 year old grandfather, who just happened to get assigned to a combat theater 63 years ago?

Let's go back to Rodman for a second. According to the self proclaimed "ambassador all around the world," he is putting together a team of retired NBA players in order to conduct a basketball exhibition tour next month in the DPRK. This, despite a state department warning to Americans not to travel there.

When questioned the other day about not only Merrill Newman, but the aforementioned, Mr. Kim, Rodman was quoted as saying, "He's (Kim) my friend first--other than that I don't give a damn what he does."


Why does the cynic in me think Dennis Rodman is going to solidify his diplomatic standing both here and abroad sometime next month. Of course he will. All he has to do is convince "his friend" to release frail old Merrill Newman while he is in North Korea playing hoops and yuking it up with the newly formed Central Committee of Basketball Exhibitions, or some other such thing. At that point, in his mind anyway, Rodman will have to be taken seriously, something that was severely lacking during his last few years in the pros. It is a personal insult he has publicly whined about. In addition, Kim, who not only possesses nuclear weapons, but apparently is as crazy as a wolverine on meth, will think he actually has a valid representative in the west--one who will have the ear of, not only the public, but the government of the United States of, by God, America. Indeed, who among us won't listen to Dennis Rodman when he comes home with Merrill Newman in tow?

Hey, as comedienne Judy Tenuta once said, "It could happen." And given the IQs of the parties involved does such a scenario sound that far fetched? I didn't think so.

Meanwhile, closer to home, we had our National Rifle Association moment of the weekend in Nashville, TN early Saturday morning. A country and western musician named Wayne Mills went bar hopping with some pals Friday night after attending a George Jones tribute concert. They ended up in a joint called the Pit and Barrel after hours. An argument ensued with the bar's owner because Mills lit up a cigarette in a non-smoking area of the establishment. Before it was done, he was shot to death.

The owner of the place, Chris Ferrell, has claimed the shooting was in self defense. Police are investigating. Charges have yet to be filed because, yes, Mr. Ferrell is licensed to carry a hand gun. I mean, let's face it, you never know when a deadly ass hole is going to assault you with second hand smoke in a closed bar. That's right. Stand your ground, baby.

With less than a month to go before the one year anniversary of the Newtown, CT shootings, Slate and @GunDeaths report 10,833 Americans have been murdered with guns.

The ambassador all around the world has yet to comment on the domestic carnage.

Obviously, more important things are on his mind.

sic vita est


Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Magic Number Changes: No More Minority Rule

The media has called today's Senate vote the nuclear option. The reason for the moniker is a bit murky. It isn't like we actually dropped a big ol' bomb on someone. There was no mass loss of life. In fact there was no loss of life at all. Neither was there any physical damage to a city, or plague of radiation spreading death and disease like some creeping green amorphous avenging angel.

It was, in reality, nothing more than a simple rule change. You know--like offensive holding in American football used to be a fifteen yard penalty, but now is only ten.

Here was, until today, the situation. The president of these United States got to nominate people to become federal judges, cabinet secretaries, ambassadors and so on. Those persons could not, however, hold office until they were confirmed by the Senate. To be confirmed, a majority of Senators had to vote in their favor--but not just any majority. It took what is sometimes called a super majority. In other words even though there are 100 Senators and a majority of that number in any other part of the real world is 51, during the confirmation process the figure magically rose to 60. This is, what I like to describe as, minority rule. What else would you call it when four tenths of the voters, plus one, control what six tenths of the others, minus one, want?

In theory it was meant to make sure nominees, especially those proposed to a seat on the federal bench, where it is a life time appointment, would be required to meet a higher standard.

Unfortunately, for the past four plus years, the GOP hasn't been interested in who gets nominated. They have been far more concerned with who did the nominating. And, if it was the tall, thin, black guy sitting in the oval office, well then fuck him and the nominee.

Today, tired of what has become just another avenue for republicans to thwart anything and everything Barack Obama thinks is good for the country, 52 Senators voted to throw out the super majority rule. Now it will take 51 yes votes, a true mathematical majority, like we learned in elementary school, to enable the Senate to fill a judicial void--that one which has been probably been sitting open for two years and would remain that way for another three, so long as Mitch McConnell and his gang of cut throats are running loose in the upper chamber.

NBC News quoted New York Senator, Chuck Schumer as saying, "The age old rules of the Senate are being used to paralyze us. The public is asking, begging, us to act."

Obama took to the air and said of the 60 vote threshold, "It is no longer used in a responsible way to govern. It is rather used as a reckless and relentless tool to grind all business to a stop. That is not what our founders intended."

Predictably, Mitch McConnell called the vote, "a power grab." He also warned darkly, "You may regret this sooner than you think."

As my kids used to say, "whatever."

Obviously, there is no doubt, somewhere down the road, the GOP will regain control of the Senate and, no matter how loud they screech now, they'll gleefully exploit this change in procedure. We'll meet that train when it rolls in. Right now there is a huge log jam of nominees and jobs which are vacant. Finally, Obama can do his job and fill them.

NBC noted the rule change will not effect Supreme Court nominations. So yes, Mitch, can still gum up the works if the president has to fill a seat there.

The cold truth is the two hundred year old rule would have never been changed had the tea party hacks, the hard right edge of the GOP, actually looked at each nominee and judged them by their merits and intellects, not by who put their name in play. They refused to do so time and time again because of their pathological hatred of Obama and abject fear of media demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly.

Hey guys, call us back when you realize what being a U.S. Senator really means. Trust me, the democrats will talk to you about traditions and rules then.

It has turned dark and cold here on the southern plains. A bitter wind is blowing out of the north and fast moving curtains of drizzle are whipping across the streets.

Luckily, at least 52 people in this country have seen the light and realized running the government is more than just putting on a spiffy blue suit and saying no to everything. Indeed--sometimes the majority does actually have the guts to rule. How refreshing it is.

It's time for a cocktail.

Say good night, Gracie.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Coda For Danielle Marie Cooley

Coda: A more or less independent passage at the end of a composition introduced to bring it to a satisfactory close.

Well there certainly isn't anything satisfactory about the sentencing of Danielle Marie Cooley. You can never use a word like that when it comes to a gruesome saga like this. Last week, Ms. Cooley was ordered to serve nine years for her part in the killing of Kelsey Bransby two autumns ago. She was in the dock because she violated the terms of her probation. Not even becoming the state's star witness in the trial of co-defendant, Cole Hopper could bail her out of the hole she dug for herself.

From the moment the gun went off, Hopper was spewing a squalid stream of lies and excuses. He continued them right up until he was hit with nine years this summer. Cooley, pleaded out and was cut a deal in exchange for her testimony, but she refused to stop doing the smoke, or shooting up. After failing a drug test she was ordered to face a judge in early August. Reality and panic set in about the same time she was supposed to show up on the 7th of that month. Facing certain revocation of her probation, she flew the coop.

Her behavior was so bent her first lawyer withdrew from the case. She was rounded up in short order and her second attorney tried to soften the blow by calling a witness from the Cleveland County S-CAP. According to the Facebook page of S-CAP, it began in 2010 through the auspices of the Cleveland County Sheriff's Department. It is a self described, "diversionary and re-entry program for non-violent female offenders incarcerated in the Cleveland County Detention Center for 40 days." The page claims S-CAP has served over 364 women and their children and has reduced recidivism by 70%.

Well, you can't win them all.

The court record shows Danielle Cooley is going away now and before she is released she must successfully complete what is called an RTP program. Basically, it is an extended process of rehabilitation from chemical dependency. There is a long list of steps that are explained, including group and individual therapy, family involvement sessions, and even "spiritual growth." There is a bunch of other stuff too, but in truth, after reading the entire menu you get the idea it should be accompanied by a bunch of happy face emoticons.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Danielle Cooley will turn things around in her life and walk away from this nightmare sober and productive. There is no doubt she'll be older, but the bottom line is there will never be any guarantee she won't latch onto a new needle and start kissing the sky the very moment she gets out. It is, after all, the nature of the beast and she has a real taste for it.

According to the OCIS site she was advised of her appellate rights and is scheduled back in court on November 12, 2014 for a review of her progress. Between now and then she is going to be incarcerated, so we know for certain she will show up for that date.

The only other thing we know for sure is, no matter how long both Cooley and Hopper spend in the clutches of the Department of Corrections, Kelsey Bransby will still be dead.

Tragically, there is no review, or appeals process for her. When you've been killed there is no coda.

sic vita est


Monday, November 18, 2013

The Monday Blitz: George Z. Back in Jail, A Family Feud, and Charity at Walmart

 I guess we should just be happy he didn't shoot anyone else.

Yes, our old pal George Zimmerman is back in custody. A report by NBC news was initially sketchy, however now details have begun to emerge. Apparently, Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, was arrested today when police responded to a disturbance call at a house in Apopka, FL. By all accounts it was a bizarre scene. Zimmerman's current girl friend, Samantha Scheibe called police and claimed Ted Nugent's hero had smashed a glass table, pointed a shotgun at her, and then pushed her out the door. According to Yahoo news, Zimmerman then barricaded himself in the house by stacking furniture against the door and told her he would only speak to the police over the phone.

The cops weren't having any of it. They pushed their way through the door and furniture and slapped the cuffs on the suspect. The report says Zimmerman was compliant as officers took him into custody. Well of course he was, The Zimster knows when he is out gunned. It is one thing to shoot an unarmed kid during a fist fight, but another entirely when the SWAT team comes charging through the door. Yahoo says the former captain of the neighborhood watch has been charged with domestic aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, domestic battery, and criminal mischief. Presumably the kitchen sink will be added to the list tomorrow morning. It is probably safe to say our man George has used up all his excuses, not to mention terminally frayed the patience of every Florida cop on duty, no matter what his or her opinion is of black teenagers in hoodies taking a stroll at night. 

We last saw Quick Draw McGraw back in September when police were called to quell an argument between him and his soon to be ex-wife. No charges were filed at that time because, as always with this gruesome cretin, there were conflicting stories about not only who started the dust up, but who did what to who. Faced with yet another Zimmerman conundrum, one, luckily, not involving a dead body, the police, at the time, simply dropped their investigation.

Obviously the edge of the envelope has now been pushed to the limit of tearing. Incredibly, at this moment, as far as it is known, the Z Man retains his right to carry a concealed weapon during his travels and travails across the Sunshine State. No doubt millions of Florida's citizens are comforted by the thought and will sleep well tonight. After all, to paraphrase the NRA shills, the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a package of Skittles, is a George Zimmerman with a gun.

Meanwhile in Wyoming the Liz Cheney senate campaign is sinking into huge morass of quicksand. Her run against three term republican Mike Enzi seemed a long shot at best, but now she is not only taking flak from an ultra conservative super pac, but her own sister, Mary.

It seems that sometimes you just can't please anyone. An outfit called American Principles Group has been running ads on Wyoming TV accusing Ms. Cheney of being soft on the international threat of homosexuality in general and same sex marriage in particular. The candidate took to the air over the weekend to refute those wild and damaging accusations. She told the people at Fox she has always believed the institution of marriage should be strictly between a man and woman.

Oops. That revelation didn't go over well with her sister Mary, who is wed to a woman named Heather Poe. Mary jumped on Facebook and posted, "Liz--this isn't just an issue on which we disagree--you're just wrong and on the wrong side of history." Poe called the candidate's opinion, "offensive," and bitterly complained Liz had previously told both her and Mary how happy she was for them.

The American Principles Group latest poll shows Enzi leading Cheney among republican voters in Wyoming, 69% to 17%. Of course, we all know how deadly accurate conservative pollsters are. Dick Morris had Mitt Romney winning 325 electoral votes right up to the moment Mr. Romney's campaign flamed out on election night. Not only that, but when Dick Cheney is in the background you can never tell who is going to get paid off or end up dead in a ditch. I mean this is the same guy who shot a friend in the face during a hunting trip. Then, within hours, the wounded friend was dragged before the cameras to publicly apologize to the then vice president for getting in the way of the shotgun blast. No, you don't screw with Dick Cheney, or one suspects, a daughter of his who is running for office.

Finally up in Canton, OH a local Walmart location is collecting donations of food from it's associates, not for some charity, or local food bank, but for other Walmart employees who work in the same store. You see, it seems some Walmart employees just can't make ends meet, despite their current careers with the retail giant.

Management at the store seemed puzzled why some people are a tad appalled by this. The boys in charge issued a statement saying it was an act of kindness by associates who are just trying to assist their fellow workers during the holiday season. Of course the store itself isn't helping out with either donations, or by paying a living wage, but hey, the bottom line must be preserved at all costs. After all, we aren't a bunch of communists around here.

To further prove Walmart's concern for the thousands upon thousands of lucky people who work for it, there is what is called, The Associate Critical Need Trust. It is a non-profit set up by the corporation to provide employees with financial assistance when needed. Associates can contribute to the fund either through payroll deductions, or direct contributions. Yes, that is right, the Walton family doesn't give a dime to it. It is funded entirely by the very people they are fucking over. An estimated 50,000 Walmart employees have applied for help through the trust.

And all this time I thought the Koch brothers were the ruthless ones.

It is going to be a long week. It appears there will be an endless parade of television specials chronicling the death of John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald and just about everyone else who was in Dealey Plaza that awful day fifty years ago.

At least now I can order a martini. Back then they wouldn't serve a 13 year old.

Keep the faith.

That is all.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Dispatches: Democrats Head for the Life Boats, An Oops Moment in Syria, and Rob Ford Isn't Mad in Toronto

Consider the quail flushed.

Earlier today republican congressman Fred Upton's bill hit the floor of the House of Representatives. The gist of it would allow insurance companies to continue issuing health care policies to individuals, even though the coverage doesn't meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Upton's argument is this will allow those people who have received cancellation notices to keep their current plans. However, being a republican, he couldn't help himself and he worded the bill so the same companies could sell substandard policies to new customers thereby undermining the ACA down the road.

His proposal passed with the help of 39 democrats who are suddenly trying to put as much distance between them and Barack H. Obama as possible. In a minor victory, of sorts, for the president, the number of defectors were actually less than what was originally estimated. NBC reports GOP staffers had predicted as many as 60 democrats would vote for the measure. Unfortunately for the administration there is no hiding the fact the ranks have now officially splintered.

It certainly isn't a surprise. Given what has gone on lately Obama should probably be thankful it didn't happen last month. A democratic version of the legislation went down the drain so quickly most didn't even know it existed. Chances are Harry Reid will stall Upton's bill in the Senate, but if it does get to a vote in the upper chamber there is no telling who else will rush pell-mell for the life boats. At the moment things seem perilously close to that frantic point where someone yells, "Screw the little people in steerage, it is every man and woman for themselves!" The Obama people know it and are making noises about a presidential veto if the bill hits the oval office.

Meanwhile in Syria, the boys who make up the organization known as Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham had a real OOPS moment. The group, also known by the acronym ISIS, is as busy as bees fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad. They have also been linked to al-Qaeda, which renders them pretty much humorless when it comes to prisoners of war. On Wednesday they posted a video on YouTube of one of their members holding a severed head in front of a crowd while proclaiming this was the sort of thing they would do to all of Assad's supporters.

It didn't take long for someone to mention to whoever runs ISIS the dangling head belonged to a man named Mohammed Fares and he really wasn't a supporter of Assad. In fact he had been fighting against Assad's forces for years and had just been wounded during a battle with government soldiers.

A spokesman for the group issued an apology for cutting off the shaggy noggin of the wrong guy and said something along the lines of, "sometimes these things happen." He also assured all those involved the Prophet wrote in the Quran that Allah would forgive a man for killing a believer by mistake. Well, you have to say something don't you.

Finally, up in Toronto, that party hearty Mayor, Rob Ford had a couple of his powers pared back by the city council. Ford, who is currently the world's leading candidate to die face down in a puddle of his own vomit, was barred from appointing, or removing committee chairs, or a deputy mayor. In addition his authority during a state of emergency was limited. The votes were 39-3 and 41-2 respectively. They nay votes were from Ford and his brother Doug, plus one other councillor.

Mr. Ford was quoted as saying, "I completely understand where they're coming from . If I would have had a mayor acting the way I've conducted myself I would have done the same thing." He then told the press he wasn't mad at anyone, but added, "Obviously I can't support this and I have no other options but to challenge this in court."

I don't know Rob, you might want to stay away from voluntarily entering a court room right now. Odds are, given your behavior, it won't be long before you don't have a choice.

So that is it for this Friday. It is a clear and unseasonably warm day here in the middle of Oklahoma.

And--it is time for a cocktail.

Mr. Scott you have the con. I'll be in the bar.

sic vita est


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Trust Us, Barry and We'll Trust You

And the winner of the award for, The Worst Possible Explanation For And Execution Of A Great Idea, is, Barack H. Obama. Accepting for the president is every tech geek and spin doctor currently employed by the present administration.

Yes, the Affordable Care Act roll out and the accompanying confusion, rumors, and falsehoods have been such a nightmare the conspiracy theorist in me is starting to think Barry Obama himself is on the GOP payroll. I mean, no one as smart as the president can fuck up something so important as this much without meaning to can he?

I guess he can. That is why the guy in charge held a press conference today and apologized a number of times to the people of the United States of America for the way he and his administration so utterly screwed the pooch on the health care initiative. Of course it is tough to know whether anyone out there, at this point, will accept, or even believe his apologies. NBC News reports the latest Quinnipac poll shows 52% of Americans currently think Obama isn't honest and trustworthy while only 44% feel the opposite.

The disaster has been so complete and the pressure so severe, Obama has been forced into reluctant retreat as congressional democrats pull out their hair and look for storm shelters. The idea de jour is to allow everyone to keep their current plans, even the really rotten ones, through 2014. The only caveat would be the insurance companies have to tell their customers what their plan doesn't cover and advise them they have the option of going to the federal or state health exchanges to buy new coverage. They also have to tell them the new coverage would be available with government subsidies to offset higher rates if they qualify and, if they are eligible, they can switch to the expanded medicaid option.

Right. Those sort of warnings and advisories really work. Quick, name me one person who buys a pack of Winstons, looks at the warning label on the side and says, "Oh shit, I shouldn't be doing this," then throws it away.

You can tell people the main goals of the ACA all day long. You know, the elimination of coverage caps, stopping the actuary bullshit which causes companies to charge women three to five times more than men for similar policies, the lack of cancer screening coverage, and of course, the old, being uninsurable because of pre-existing conditions bugaboo. However, to your average Joe and Jane out there who doesn't care about the fine print, it is the bottom line that counts. Hey, I'm not sick right now and I can't afford more than I'm paying at the moment and you know what--I'm not even sure how I can cash in a subsidy. Then throw in the fact it is a fiery pain in the ass to change coverage, at least through the feds and huge numbers of people aren't going to give didly squat about good intentions.

NBC reports the federal site has taken 26,000,000 hits, but only 26,794 people have been able to navigate through the maze of glitches, crashes, and fol de rol to sign up. It also reports 400,000 people are eligible for the medicaid coverage and 1,000,000 souls have completed applications, but not chosen a plan yet.

The only real glimmer of hope is that apparently the state run exchanges which are up and running have been fairly well received. In New York 16,404 people have enrolled, in California 33,364, and in Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell's state of Kentucky 7,091 have signed up. In other words, if you build it and it actually works, they will come.

Unfortunately for those living in states controlled by people who think this whole thing is some socialist plot there aren't any local exchanges. The populace is forced to go to the federal site. That is why in Texas, a state with a huge number of uninsured people, only 2,991 have enrolled in different plans.

It should have never come to this. Obama should have used the bully pulpit to tell people exactly what was going to happen instead of smiling and babbling in such broad terms he can now, rightfully so, be construed as a cynical liar--it is so bad at this moment he looks suspiciously like the Shamwow guy on steroids. On the other side the tech people should have spent months, if not years, testing the daylights out of the site. Lets face it, they knew when the roll out date was. It wasn't some state secret, Ed Snowden just released to the world press.

You can almost see Obama wandering the halls of the white house pleading, someone who can write code, someone who can write code, my kingdom for someone who can write code.

The final truth is, beyond the technical snafus, this president could have saved himself some real grief and credibility if he would have summoned up the guts to tell everybody not only the upside of the ACA, but the downside as well. For God's sake, give us some credit, Mr. Obama.

In short, trust us, sir and we will trust you.

If you can't bring yourself to do it, then you're not the man I thought you were.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Polls: Hillary Yes and Chris Maybe Not

I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.

Wild Bill Clinton talking about the Affordable Care Act in an interview with the web site, OZY

For those of you who don't follow politics, or are simply unfamiliar with U.S. presidential races, Clinton's remark is known as "distancing oneself from either a current policy, or politician you have previously supported." Think John McCain and George W. Bush, or practically every republican with a functioning brain stem and Sarah Palin.

No, Billy Jeff can't run again, but his wife can and almost certainly will. And neither of them want the mainstream electorate blaming them for the blunders of Barack Obama.

In the latest NBC poll, Hillary Clinton looks to be, what can best be described as, the runaway front runner among democrats for the 2016 nomination. At this very early point the poll numbers show 66% of democrats support nominating her while only 14% oppose and 34% remain undecided. Breaking it down further NBC reports there isn't a demographic out there where she lags. She has over 70% support among women, white democrats, seniors, low income voters, and in both the northeast and midwest. Her lowest numbers are among men, 62%, college grads 62% and upper income democrats, 60%.

That is the good news if you are Marc Mezvinsky's mother in law. The not so great news is those numbers are inflated because at this moment there isn't a viable alternative to her. At least not one who is making noises about running. Ultimately it is a catch--22 situation. The numbers are huge because she has no real opposition, but because they are so huge she might not get any. Biden is headed to the farm and while recently there has been some minor chatter about Elizabeth Warren, it stretches the imagination to believe she'd actually mount a campaign to challenge the Clinton machine.

The brutal truth is Warren is still a rookie and Hillary Rodham Clinton can't wait. During the next presidential election the nation will be 16 years removed from the last time a Clinton lived in the white house. That is long enough for most people to get past the queasy feeling of a Clinton over dose that was around eight years ago. Indeed, if she runs and doesn't win in 2016 she will be a two time loser and two time losers are done in national politics. If she doesn't run her next shot would be in 2020 against either a republican incumbent, or worse, an incumbent from her own party. So, to paraphrase the NBA playoff catchphrase, "Win in 2016, or go home."

The other person the poll concentrated on was the republican star de jour, Chris Christie. The governor of New Jersey just won re-election by a whopping margin in a blue state and he has the media's full attention at the moment.

He also has problems. The poll shows he has the support of 32% of GOP voters, while 31% would prefer someone else. 37% were undecided. There is no one outside of Ted Cruz and Karl Rove who would call those figures a mandate. NBC reports he does well among minorities with 46%, seniors with 48% and republicans in the northeast with 57%.

However, among the 18 to 29 year old demographic his support is a mere 15%. In the south his number is 27%, in the midwest 30% and in what the poll defines as the west only 22%. In other words, there is nothing there to either write home about, or go to a big money donor with and say I am the man.

Yes, that civil war we've mentioned is brewing and it will get ugly. One tea party wag was quoted by NBC as saying, "We're so frustrated with all this Christie talk we can't see straight. He's no more conservative than Harry Reid."

God love 'em. The tea party rubes still don't understand they'll never win a national election. They have eaten the mushrooms and dropped the acid and their wild eyed roller coaster ride through the looking glass apparently will never end.

In the hypothetical match up between Clinton and Christie there is a ten point spread with her in the lead. However all the same signs are there from the last two elections. She leads among African Americans, Latinos, and the 18-29 age group. She trails among whites by 4 points, seniors by 3, and--surprise surprise--among high income voters by 12. It is hard to believe any of those numbers, or demographics would change significantly with a fire breathing yahoo from the right edge of the party, even if he does inspire huge numbers of the tea party crowd to grab their penises and tug on them vigorously.

It is a long way to 2016. In 2008 Mrs. Clinton had an early lead and watched it slip away to Barack Obama, but this time around there simply isn't anyone else out there. God only knows how Christie will play outside of New Jersey. However, we can be assured there will be a whole flock of angry birds screeching wildly about his politics to the true believers. The early feeling is he isn't going to be the GOP guy, but it also seems unfathomable that the republican party, would commit suicide by unleashing Ted Cruz upon the populace with their actual blessing. From this angle it looks like the situation is, as they say, fluid and the real GOP nominee is perhaps some name the media hasn't fixated on yet.

I suppose that is why they invented campaigns and the sociopaths who run them.

It is cold and clear here on the southern plains this afternoon. Keep a clear eye, because there is no telling what tomorrow will bring.

As always, keep moving and don't bunch up. After all, we don't want them to get us all with one burst.

The smoking lamp is lit. That is all.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Craziness in Toronto: Rob Ford and the Coming Night

I have to maybe slow down my drinking. I don't know what else to say.

Rob Ford, 64th Mayor of Toronto, Ontario--the 4th largest city in North America

Yes, that might be an option well worth exploring, Mr. Mayor.

First there was the video of His Honor, Mr. Ford firing up a glass pipe and smoking crack. Now there is a second video of him in some anonymous room yelling, "I'm going to kill that fucking guy. No holds barred brother, he dies or I die." There were other things--you know--details about how long it would take him to kill the unidentified, "other guy" but hey, you get the gist of the message.

It took Mr. Ford a while to admit he had smoked crack. In fact he denied he'd done it right up until the moment the Toronto police chief revealed his department had a copy of the video in their possession. It was only then Ford went to the media and admitted he'd taken a toke, or two, or three, but at the same time he assured everyone present it was only because he was in a "drunken stupor."

Yes, that makes perfect sense and excuses everything. In fact it makes you wonder what all the fuss is about.

After the second video, which played on the Toronto Star web site, the mayor sang much the same tune. "Obviously I was extremely, extremely inebriated," he said. According to MSN, the emergence of the second video moved Toronto city council member, James Pasternak to urge the mayor to make a "dignified exit."

I'm sorry Councilman, but we're way beyond that now. Many words can be used to describe Mr. Ford, who has a disturbing resemblance in both appearance and demeanor to the late, Chris Farley, but dignified simply isn't one of them.

On the other hand, as Hunter Thompson used to say, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." The CBC reports that despite a lengthy history of crazed behavior, Ford remains eminently re-electable. In fact, one poll they cited shows that after the crack confession, his approval rating went up by five points. Those are numbers even former Washington D.C. mayor Marion Barry would envy and he was re-elected in the district after doing six months of time for the same sort of drug addled behavior.

Indeed, you have to admire a man with staying power. According to Wikipedia, Ford was elected to the Toronto city council in 2000. That would be the year after he was busted for DUI and marijuana possession down in Miami. In 2006, the same year he won a third term on the council, he was chucked out of a Maple Leaf's hockey game for being drunkenly belligerent to a couple sitting behind him. That was the moment he began setting the precedent for what was to come later. When confronted with the allegations he initially claimed he wasn't even at the game. He finally fessed up and in 2010 he was elected mayor.

It is reported he admitted on a radio show last Sunday he was, "hammered" at a street festival in August and last St. Patrick's Day he went so completely out of control he ended up wandering the corridors of city hall in the middle of the night while sucking on a half empty bottle of brandy.

His older brother, Doug is on the city council and during all this madness he went on the attack. After Toronto police chief Bill Blair told the media his department had the crack video in hand, Ford, the elder, was quoted as calling him, "The most political police chief we've ever had." He then demanded Blair resign immediately.

Obviously family is family and the best defense is a good offense. Some rules are the same everywhere on this blue ball. After all, when Jimmy Carter was president he had to deal with his half mad, red neck, brother Billie, who, between beers, was forced to register as a paid agent of the Libyan government.

Yes, strange shit happens.

The best that can be said about the current situation is that Ford at least seems human, which can't be said about the savage rube from Alberta, Ted Cruz.

Ultimately, while many chuckle away at all this manical nonsense, those of us who survived the sixties and seventies know we are watching a tragedy in the making. It is painfully obvious unless Mayor Ford actually comes through on his promise to, "slow down my drinking" he will soon be just as dead as Chris Farley, John Belushi and untold others. Deep down he knows it too. You can see it in his desperate eyes as he sweats out a killer hangover while making excuses for his behavior to the press and public. You can even see it in the rants and wild gestures he displays when he is totally whacked.

The awful truth is, for all these years, Rob Ford has been raging against himself and the inevitable night that is coming for him.

In the end, he loathes them both, but he can't stop either.

sic vita est


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bored in Duncan Part II: Michael Jones Sinks Deeper Into the Hole and Things May Not Be What We've Been Told

Things weren't particularly peachy for Michael Jones down in Duncan, OK before yesterday. The 17 year old had been accused of being the wheel man during the drive by shooting of Christopher Lane last August 16th. Within 48 hours of being picked up by police he began to rat out fellow teenagers, James Edwards Jr, who he said was a passenger in the front seat and Chancey Luna who he claimed was in the back seat and was the actual shooter. Jones claimed Lane, an Australian from Melbourne who was in town to visit his girlfriend, was killed because The Three Amigos were bored.

In exchange for his gruesome little tale of life in small town America, Jones was charged with accessory to murder after the fact and use of a motor vehicle in the discharge of a weapon. Edwards and Luna, on the other hand, were both hit with murder in the first degree. District Attorney Jason Hicks explained, at the time, to the media and public the reason for the lesser charges would become apparent once the trial, or trials began.

Well, not any more.

In today's local OKC paper, "The Oklahoman," reporter Nolan Clay writes the Stephens County D.A. dropped those lesser counts against Jones yesterday and upped the ante to murder one. According to Clay, the prosecutor told the judge, Jones is now suspected of being involved with two other shootings--one the day of Lane's murder and another the night before.

Hicks would not give Clay any details because he said a judicial gag order prevented him from doing so. Clay reports the only other shooting on the 16th in the public record is that of a donkey. The animal was found dead around 8am about a mile from where Lane was killed that afternoon. According to his story, the donkey's owner said the beast was shot eight times. He also told Clay the Duncan police have not let him know if the two shootings are connected, but added, "It's a pretty hushed up deal." That is an understatement of monumental proportions. You don't usually see someone who is turning state's evidence in a high profile case slapped with murder one because he failed to mention to the D.A he shot a jackass.

The resolution of this whole nightmare was never the slam dunk Jason Hicks had led everyone to believe in the murder's immediate aftermath. For one, at last look, the weapon used in the killing has never been located. In fact both Luna and Edwards have previously claimed they weren't even there. That means the prosecution's entire case rested on the testimony of Jones, whose word has now been discredited by the very office depending on it.

The rest of Clay's story deals with local speculation about whether the shooting, or shootings were part of a gang initiation. The father of a local teen who felt his son was being threatened by Jones, Edwards and Luna claims they were members of a local chapter of the Crips. The Duncan police chief has said the three were wannabes with no real gang connections.

Gang membership or not really isn't the point here. The point is in America guns are as easy to get as fucking haircuts and loads of us, both young and old, are willing to use them just because we can. And--at this moment, no one really knows who pulled the trigger on Christopher Lane.

From a distance it appeared there was always more to the cruel mayhem than was being said and reported. Now, from that same long range view, it looks like the entire case is coming unglued--that everything we thought we knew was either just a fraction of what really happened, or, stunningly, complete fiction.

Jones was denied bail. Clay reports a preliminary hearing for all three defendants is set for November 20th.

Chris Lane was 22 the day he went jogging and was gunned down. He was a catcher on the East Central University baseball team and would have graduated in the spring.

His shooting death is one of 10,288 in the United States that have been recorded by Slate and @GunDeaths since December 14th of last year.

Yes, Virginia, there are no Mayberrys, but, unfortunately, there are plenty of Duncans and a whole lot of guns.

sic vita est


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Observations From the Cavern: Halloween Costumes, Canadian Mayors on a Bender, and Chris Christie Speaks to the NRA

The clouds are low and tinted battleship gray today here in the center of Oklahoma. Squalls of drizzle blow through every now and then and the apartment has all the ambiance of a cavern tucked away somewhere in the side of a wooded ravine. The only thing missing is flickering torch light.

Of course many people are missing things in this gruesome day and age. Take Alicia Lynch. She is currently lacking a brain. MSN reports the 22 year old brunette thought it would be extraordinarily clever this Halloween to avoid the obvious and not wear a Wonder Woman, Lara Croft, or even a zombie costume. Indeed, why be just another cliche? In a moment of pure inspiration, she donned running shoes, shorts, a tee shirt, and an entrant's number. She then smeared her legs and forehead with streaks of fake blood and showed up at work as a, "Boston Marathon survivor."

Before she was fired from her job she tweeted a photo of herself beaming at the camera. Real survivors of the marathon were about as amused as her former boss. The howls and condemnations could be heard from Boylston Street to Leominster. MSN wrote that she explained to BuzzFeed, "I wasn't being disrespectful. I was a survivor of a marathon. And its not like I was walking around with a fake leg, or my arm torn off, or something like that." This being America and the wonderful world of twitter, she not only received complaints she was insensitive, but found herself on the wrong end of a number of death threats.

Meanwhile up in Toronto, NBC reports Mayor Rob Ford, after weeks of denying it, finally admitted he had smoked crack cocaine, "probably a year ago." He excused his behavior by saying it happened during a "drunken stupor." The accusations started to fly in May, but His Honor's mea culpa came only after Toronto police announced they were in possession of a video which showed him firing up the ol' glass pipe. Ford claims he is not an addict and NBC noted there is no mechanism in place to remove him from office unless he is convicted of a crime and chucked into the slammer.

Be that as it may Mr. Ford might want to get in touch with Marion Barry down in Washington D.C. Barry was popped by the FBI during one of his tenures as mayor for lighting up a rock in a motel room. No doubt, he will have valuable advice for Ford. I mean let's face it, when you're in deep, you need a pro on the other end of the line who has hands on experience with this sort of shit, not some rookie who doesn't know the ropes.

Finally, removing all doubt he is running for president, NBC reported NJ  Governor Chris Christie took to the microphones after some desperate loser ran amok in a Paramus mall Monday night. The guy had a gun, because everyone here has a gun, randomly fired six shots, then killed himself. Christie's take on the affair was this: "We need to get to these root causes. And its not the sexiest thing in the world to talk about, to be more aggressive in the mental health area. Everybody likes to brandish guns and put them on tables and say we're going to ban this, or ban that." He added, "...every one of these incidents involved a deeply disturbed person who was not getting treatment. We need to get to that. If we get to that we have a better chance of preventing some of these incidents."

The governor ended his remarks before offering any suggestions on how we should, "get to that." Obviously he is a Big Picture sort of guy and his staff handles the detail work.

In truth, listening to him was to realize, Christie wasn't addressing the media and public at all, but rather the NRA leadership. It was his way of saying, "Hey guys, I'm with you all the way, don't lump me in with the liberals. And, by the way, my campaign fund accepts checks, money orders, and credit cards."

The shooter was identified as 20 year old, Richard Shoop. He stole the weapon, an AK-47 look alike, from his brother. Christie contends police found a suicide note. The brother described the invasion of the mall as, "self indulgence."

So there we have it. Missing brains, drunken stupors, and another lost soul who found it far too easy to arm himself and become "self indulgent."

No wonder staying holed up in the cavern looks better and better with each passing day. Maybe I'll take to painting the walls. After all, there are numerous precedents for that throughout the world.

Don't worry though, I promise to send up smoke signals if I need provisions.

sic vita est


Monday, November 4, 2013

Looking Ahead to 2016: Hillary if She Wants it, Paul's Aura and the Coming Christie-Cruz Death Match

So, as we watch the S.S. Obama take torpedo after torpedo and sink into the inky abyss just like the Lusitania did so many years ago, perhaps it is time to look ahead to 2016.

As things move forward it appears Jumpin' Joe Biden will run, but he has two problems. One, he is irrevocably tied to a president whose popularity currently has all the aerodynamic properties of a blacksmith's anvil, the second is Hillary Rodham Clinton. Lets face it, if she wants the nomination she is going to get it. Nothing less than severe health problems, or a public mea culpa during which she admits she personally offed Vince Foster will stop Mrs. Clinton from winning practically every democratic primary.

Once a general election rolls around things get iffier. The GOP will hammer her on the Benghazi debacle and claim her husband is pulling the strings behind the scenes. There will be ugly push polls hinting at her sexual orientation and Bill's run amok libido. And, truth be told, as smart as she is, there is an undeniable air of arrogance and disagreeability to her. Couple that with a self immolating Obama administration and any number of people who are simply uncomfortable with the idea of another Clinton in the white house and you have an opening the GOP could take advantage of.

Of course the republicans have problems uniquely their own. While Mrs. Clinton's real struggle would be during the general election the GOP will be waging open civil war during the nominating process.

There is no telling how many will enter the ring before the Iowa caucuses. Rand Paul is sure to be one, but the Jr. Senator from Kentucky is surrounded by the same aura his old man was--it is the dull blue shimmer which accompanies all complete losers. Two of the other, more prominent, names at the moment are the mad Canadian, Ted Cruz and the soon to be re-elected governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie.

Every indication at this time is, while Christie would make the better presidential candidate, he might be so unacceptable to the far right he'll never make it through the GOP convention.

In a story by NBC News, former George W. Bush press secretary, Ari Fleischer is quoted as saying of Christie, "Republicans don't trust him." Well some republicans, as in the tea party twits--you know the ones who have an inordinate amount of pull during the primaries.

Yes, those photos of him shaking hands with Barack Obama in the aftermath of super storm Sandy--those sound bites of him thanking the president for the quick federal response--sent many true believers into apoplectic rages. Charges of treason and blasphemy were shrill and common. The ferocity of the right wing reaction shook Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallon so much she made sure she wasn't seen anywhere near Obama when he arrived here the following May to inspect tornado damage in Moore.

Governor Christie has other issues with the right, especially the evangelicals. He has signed legislation outlawing therapy for gay teens which is designed to cure them of their sexual orientation. His opposition to same sex marriage in New Jersey seemed perfunctory at best and while he has been quoted as saying, "life is a gift from God," he hasn't pursued any legislation which would slap draconian restrictions on abortion providers like more conservative governors have.

Make no mistake about it though, Chris Christie is a republican through and through. He despises unions and has referred to union leaders as, "political thugs." He has also portrayed public sector unions as, "corrosive" and claimed the New Jersey state teacher's union was, "out of control." A while back, in a moment which fulfilled every Sheldon Adelson wannabe's wet dream, he vetoed a measure which would have restored higher state taxes on everyone in Jersey who earns a yearly income of $1,000,000 and more.

The last NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Christie has a 38% positive rating among all republicans. Among self described conservative republicans it dips to 31%. Cruz, on the other hand, has a 39% positive rating among all party members and it goes up to 40% among those same conservatives, while his negative rating is only 11%. Among the conservative faithful, Christie's down side is 18%.

The truth is, while Cruz might be able to win a state or two north of the Mason-Dixon Line during the GOP nominating process, it is hard to imagine Christie winning anything at all south of it.

NBC quoted Mississippi republican national committeeman Henry Barbour as saying, "I'm a member of the club who thinks that somebody who agrees with you 80% of the time is your ally, not a 20% traitor."

Yes, your sentiment is all fine and good, Brother Barbour, but selling that notion to the tea party yokels out there is another animal altogether. Especially after Teddy Cruz has spent months whipping them into a xenophobic fury.

No matter what it won't be pretty on the republican side. Blood will run in the streets and prisoners will not be taken. If Hillary Clinton is in, the deal is done on the democratic end. However, if, for some unfathomable reason, she decides not to run there will be a scramble that will make the opening rush of Wal-Mart shoppers on the Friday after Thanksgiving look distinguished and orderly.

Tomorrow night Christie will be handed a second term by New Jersey voters. Look for his show to hit the road shortly thereafter. The big banner on the side of the bus will read, "I Can Win A Blue State."

At this early juncture however, I believe I'll take Cruz and give the points. He has the bright, sharp, and unwavering gleam of sheer lunacy the uber conservatives know and love. That and they aren't going to put up with what many of them perceive as just a rounder version of Mitt Romney. They have been down that road before and the results weren't to their liking.

It is a gray Monday here on the southern plains. The air reeks of rain, although none has fallen yet. Can someone say martini?

I thought so.

Over and out.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Two Years of Ghost Shirt Papers

The last two years have been strange and deadly. It seems hard to believe, but on November 1, 2011, I wrote the first post of Ghost Shirt Papers. It wasn't like I hadn't done something similar before. My first effort at blogging was when I was dealing with AOL. After a while they deleted their free blog site and nearly three years worth of work, under the title, "Magic Theater" went the way of the Dodo. By the time I got here the name "Magic Theater" was already taken, so I had to improvise a little.

For those of you unfamiliar with the the term Ghost Shirt, it was a spiritual movement that sprang up among the Lakota Sioux in the late 1800's. The word on the plains was the garment, or ghost shirt, would protect a warrior from bullets fired by soldiers of the United States cavalry. As we all know, things didn't work out the way Lakota adherents thought they would.

Be that as it may, I began Ghost Shirt Papers without the slightest hope of it being read by anyone except a few friends and family members. Although in all honesty when I say family members I mean my wife. My kids sort of roll their eyes when I bring up the blog, smile faintly and say something like, we're happy for you, Dad.

Yes, keep the old man's mind occupied and Alzheimer's won't be so quick to set in.

This will be the 398th entry and right now the blog has officially taken just under 21,000 hits world wide. Unfortunately about 3,500 of that total comes from what Google says are "referral spam." In other words, none of those 3,500 hits are real. When you click on a link to some of  the sites listed in the stats you are directed to someplace that has nothing to do with anything. This nonsense is perpetrated by a gaggle of completely amoral geeks who are trying to lure you and I into looking at some bull shit nonsense by making their web sites available through "Ghost Shirt Papers."

On the other side, many, but not most of the 17,500 or so genuine hits have come out of the Oklahoma City metro area. The posts with the highest number of page views have to do with the deaths of Kelsey Bransby, Carina Saunders, and Alina Fitzpatrick. The three local teenagers were all found dead within a month of each other that fall. The gruesome Saunders' murder and Alina Fitzpatrick's death remain unsolved. One suspect in the Bransby shooting received nine years for manslaughter, the second will have her probation revoked a little later this month.

A piece about republican poobah and corporate big shot, David Siegal drew a huge amount of attention. He was the first of several beasts who sent messages to his employees before the last presidential election, telling them if Barack Obama won he'd lay all of them off and shut down his company. Obama won and Siegal, as far as I can tell, hasn't shut down anything, or layed anyone off.

Posts about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the lead up to and trial of George Zimmerman also took in large numbers of hits. Young Trayvon was, in effect, convicted of being black, wearing a hoodie, walking in a mostly white populated gated community, and being in criminal possession of candy and ice tea. Zimmerman was cleared of any wrong doing despite breaking every "neighborhood watch" rule established by Sanford, Florida police and using a gun to end a fist fight. Martin is still dead and Zimmerman is getting a divorce.

The entries about mass shootings in Colorado, Connecticut, and the murder of the Grieco family in New Mexico drew large numbers of views. Sadly, this being America, there was another active shooter incident today. An active shooter is currently defined as any drooling psycho who arms himself better than the military of Costa Rica and then goes on to play out every lethal fantasy he has ever had.

News out of Los Angeles International Airport remains confused and preliminary at best right now. CNN is reporting one TSA guard was killed and another wounded. At this moment authorities say the shooter is in custody, but there are conflicting reports about whether he is alive, or dead. As near as anyone can tell the guy strolled calmly into terminal three at LAX and opened fire with some sort of rifle. Details are sure to dribble out over the next 24 hours.

It seems there will never be a lack of new material when it comes to well armed, crazed assholes in the United States, or the despicable goofs who insist they should be able to buy a gun when ever and where ever they want.

With a month and a half left to go before the one year anniversary of Adam Lanza's horrifying walkabout in Newtown, Slate and @GunDeaths report there have been at least 10,082 Americans shot to death. They note the actual number of "gun related" deaths is far higher.

So, on that bright note, here we go into the third year of my skewed to the left observations, which are sometimes fueled by outrage and too many times numbed by utter horror and shock. Indeed, the prospect of more murder and mayhem seems overwhelmingly imminent. The republicans aren't going to get any more reasonable, or even coherent and neither are their keepers at the NRA. Barack Obama appears to be on the ropes and public approval ratings of congress are at an all time low. Anti choice forces in Texas were just handed a huge victory by the 5th circuit court of appeals and conservative controlled legislatures all over the place are working as busy as rabid beavers to make sure no one a shade darker than Nicole Kidman can vote.

Hey, only in America, baby--the land of the free. Well, that is what they keep telling us anyway.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

And--as 3-D Danny used to say--watch out for flying chairs.

sic vita est