Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve Dispatches: Not the Least Bit Irresponsible in Hayden, Leelah Alacorn Makes a Choice, and Flight QZ8501

The end of the year hasn't been particularly festive for many people. In fact it looks just as dreadful in some quarters as it has been in many others over the past 11 months.

On Tuesday morning Veronica J. Rutledge took her two year old son and three nieces shopping at the Hayden, Idaho Wal-Mart. They were there so they could cash in some gift cards they received on Christmas day.

Hayden is located in Kootenai County which has a population of 140,000 people. The AP reports 16,000 of those souls have permits to carry concealed weapons. Veronica Rutledge was one of them.

She was by all accounts highly intelligent. She graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in chemistry and was working as a nuclear scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory. Her father-in-law, Terry Rutledge described her as, "Not the least bit irresponsible."

Right now his description of her is rather difficult to accept. The AP says Ms. Rutledge stepped away from her shopping cart that morning, leaving two things in it. One was her son and the other was her purse. Inside the purse was a small caliber hand gun. It didn't take long for the inevitable to happen. The boy got into the purse, pulled out the weapon, and it went off. The bullet struck his mother in the head and she died shortly afterward.

Two things are now certain. First the child will grow up without his mother. Second, he will have to live his entire life with the knowledge he killed her. Was it an accident? Of course it was. Was it preventable? Absolutely. But now a baby is going to spend decades visiting some psychiatrist because of people who think they can't leave home without a loaded weapon.

Tell me again how free we are because we can carry guns.

The next nightmare comes from Vox.com. It reports that on Sunday, 17 year old Leelah Alcorn was run over by a tractor trailer rig on some stretch of highway in Ohio. It wasn't an accident. Alcorn, who was transgender and had previously said she felt like a girl trapped in a boy's body since the age of four, committed suicide.

In a note left on Tumblr she wrote her parents insisted she be, "the perfect little straight Christian boy."

So much for all those conservative, born again, yahoos who believe gays and transgendered people choose to be the way they are. You don't choose a lifestyle which is not only repugnant to your parents, but leaves you feeling so utterly alone that killing yourself becomes your only option.

Finally, in the Java Sea the terrible process of recovering bodies has begun. Pieces of the wreckage of Air Asia flight QZ8501 have been located and Reuters is reporting at least seven bodies have been pulled out of the water.

There is no word on the cause of the crash, although, as always, there is speculation and reports which may, or may not be confirmed. According to one official the plane had requested to climb from 32,000 feet to 38,000. Air traffic controllers waited a few minutes, then finally gave the flight permission to go to an altitude of 34,000 feet. Right now the official says no response was received and there was no distress signal.

The same unnamed person said radar indicated the Airbus A320-200 had gone into a climb which was described as, "...very high, too high." There were also reports that not only was the rate of climb outside the capabilities of the aircraft, its air speed was too slow. All of that indicates an aerodynamic stall--the God awful moment when the plane's engines and design are no longer viable. Then, after a breathless pause, rather like the apex of a divers launch off the high board into a pool, the aircraft begins to plunge toward the water--trapped by the unforgiving law of gravity

By now we all should know there will be nothing more than educated guesses until the plane's black box is recovered, which may take weeks. Until then the conspiracy theorists will rail on about some proto-type tractor beam on the international space station which malfunctioned during a test. Think not? At least one of them currently claims the tragedy of QZ8501 was a "red flag" ops meant to distract every ones attention from the disappearance Malaysia Airlines flight MH370--which was either a black flag, false flag, or some other type of fucking flag operation.

Warhol said everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. The world wide web allows everyone, including myself, to be a journalist for about the same amount of time.

It is the nature of the 21st century.

2014 will be gone in a few hours and the new year is about to begin. Despite some fantasies of optimism my advice always remains the same. Stay low, keep moving, and for God's sake, don't bunch up. Hey, we don't want the bastards to get us all with one burst.



sic vita est


12-31-14

Monday, December 29, 2014

Air Asia Flight QZ8501

Rest assured your pilot is well prepared to ensure your plane will never get lost.

From an article published in Travel 3Sixty, the in flight magazine of Air Asia.




That bit of hubris created a public relations nightmare for the budget minded carrier when it first appeared in March of this year. That's because on the 8th of the same month Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 flew off into the twilight zone with 239 passengers and crew aboard. Even as they apologized for the article and pulled the magazine, Air Asia executives were claiming the magazine was printed before the Malaysian aircraft went missing.

Now the piece, written by a retired pilot, has come back to haunt them again, because despite the sunny promise, an Air Asia pilot has indeed lost a plane.

Early reports vary some, but all agree flight QZ8501 disappeared off radar screens Sunday morning at 6:24 am local time. A few say the flight crew requested to make a turn in order to avoid storms in the area, which ground controllers agreed to. Other accounts don't mention the turn at all. Shortly after the possible course change the pilot asked permission to climb from 32,000 feet to 38,000. Again, sources vary in detail about what happened next. At least one claims the decision to allow the Air Bus A320-200 to climb was put off for four minutes because another flight in the area was at that altitude. By the time air traffic controllers decided to allow the shift the plane was lost. Another says the pilot was given permission to go only to 34,000 feet which he presumably did. Then a few minutes later, just before controllers were going to let him go the extra 4,000 the flight was gone from the radar.There wasn't a distress call, or at least not one received.

Which ever is the case, the 155 passengers and seven crew are now presumed lost somewhere in the Java Sea. In the words of one Indonesian official flight QZ8501 is, "likely at the bottom of the sea." Search teams from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia are searching an area of ocean roughly the size of New Mexico, so far without success. One report claims, "suspicious," objects were been spotted floating around, but they are close to 700 miles from the aircraft's last reported position.

As with MH370 confusion and wild rumors seem to reign in the early stages of the search. It is a situation which will, no doubt, fuel the unhinged imaginations of conspiracy theorists everywhere. If the wreckage isn't found in a couple of days all sorts of wild stories about CIA black ops, particle rays, and American Death Stars will begin to infest places like You Tube.

The simple fact is there are major differences in the circumstances of the disappearances, but they probably won't squelch rumors of a computerized hijacking and secret landing strips in Vietnam.

MH370 appeared to deliberately hide from radar screens for hours on end, while the Air Asia flight was heading into turbulent weather and trying to get both around and above it. There wasn't an attempt by someone on board to turn off all the technology which allows it to be tracked.

In addition an NBC report noted the Java Sea is well traveled and averages a depth of anywhere from 130 to 160 feet. It is a far cry from the vast expanse of empty and extremely deep ocean most experts believe MH370 fell into. In other words, the odds of finding QZ8501 are much better.

None of that will be of comfort to family and friends of the passengers and crew who are now coming to grips with a terrible truth. Yes, this latest disaster probably won't have all the mystery and speculation, but their loved ones will still be dead and that is what matters the most. Then, in a few weeks, or months, when shock and grief turns to anger, we all know the next step will be massive litigation. Lawyers everywhere in southeast Asia are already lining up for a shot at the air line.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Air Asia CEO, Tony Fernandes seems to have come down with a distinct case of reality. Yesterday he told the press, "Until today we have never lost a life, but I think any airline CEO who says he can guarantee that his airline is 100 percent safe is not accurate."

That's one way of putting it.

Another is human technology will never be perfect, or able to completely conquer the brute forces of nature. And--when our arrogance allows us to forget it--people have always perished.



sic vita est

12-29-14

Friday, December 26, 2014

"The Interview," Redux

So what happened next is Sony pictures grew tired of being called a bunch of cowards. The corporation reversed gears and released the film, "The Interview," on Christmas Day just like they originally planned. Well, sort of.

After some murky outfit calling itself The Guardians of Peace issued terrorist threats the large theater chains here and in Canada refused to show the movie. They still won't. However, Sony found just over 300 independent theater owners who know a golden opportunity when they see one. For the first time in decades they were able to get their hands on a hot property the mega chains wouldn't touch--you know--a feature which didn't happen to be epic pornography, or an abject dud starring people who made terrible career choices.

Yesterday they had lines of customers running down the sidewalks in front of their places in numbers they previously only dreamed about. In addition Sony released the movie on You Tube, Google Play, a dedicated web site run by the company, and the Microsoft Xbox gaming console.

Things didn't go completely without a hitch. Xbox and Sony's Play Station were hacked on Wednesday night and both were still encountering problems as late as yesterday. Another band of merry trouble makers calling themselves, the Lizard Squad took credit. What they have to do with The Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Guardians of Peace, if anything, is unclear at this time.

A spokesperson for the DPRK called the film, "An unpardonable mockery to the dignity of our supreme leader." The Russians said the North Koreans anger was, "quite understandable." Earlier, among other things, the Chinese accused Seth Rogen and crew of, "cultural arrogance." At home it appears American television talk show hosts, who the film also skewers, haven't taken it so personally--at least not yet.

NBC interviewed a few movie goers who bragged about standing up for freedom of expression and doing, "The most American thing." From a Hawaiian golf course Barack Obama said he was glad the film was being released. Rogen took to a stage, beer in hand, at a midnight showing somewhere and thanked both the theater and audience for, "making this fucking thing happen."

Yes, but exactly how far can all this patriotic frenzy carry a film which cost between $42 and $44 million to make? According to reports the movie took in $1 million yesterday. The original estimate by Sony was that from Christmas Day through the weekend in wide release it would gross $20 million.

It is a number which, at this point, seems completely unattainable.  Those 300 plus screens represent less than 10% of the number of venues which Sony had originally planned on. Not to mention there is no telling how many deft keyboardists are out there at this moment watching it for free thanks to their nefarious computer skills.

Sony might talk about freedom of expression, but they are, after all, looking  to make a buck. Ultimately, if there is no profit in a motion picture they could give a rat's ass about freedom of expression.

As for the film itself, right now, Rotten Tomatoes gives "The Interview," a rating of 45%, meaning a majority of critics they've surveyed have panned it. MovieFone has it at 53%. In the NBC piece, after viewing the film, one patron told a reporter, "It was hilarious in a stupid way."

In other words it ranks right up there with the average American male's opinion of those old Three Stooges short films.

That's right, America can be accused of many things, but having a sophisticated sense of humor will never be one of them.

Technology may change, but we won't. We are constantly crude to the extreme. We always have been and always will be.

It was something I first realized during my freshman year at the University of Oklahoma in 1968. The sophomores who were mercilessly hazing us wore black tee shirts which said, "If you can't take a joke, fuck you."

Indeed. Nothing says America more than that.



12-26-14

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

James Woods and Pat Lynch Know Who to Blame

Well James Woods certainly knows how to defuse racial tensions. Following the murder of two New York City police officers on Saturday night the actor, who usually plays some sort of slimy villain in motion pictures, posted a short series of messages on twitter. The first, which was later deleted, read, "This disgusting pig is DIRECTLY responsible for the murder of two good policemen. No discussion." The text was accompanied by a photo of Reverend Al Sharpton.

In addition he tweeted, "I'm putting wings on pigs today--cop assassin Ismaaiyl Brinsley. Is race pimp Al Sharpton eating caviar this morning?"

In a third post he wrote, "Sony has hired race racketeer and tax cheat Al Sharpton for its board. Imagine this: #BoycottSony until he is ousted." This means Mr. Woods is on the Hate Sony Bandwagon with some highly questionable people, although for different reasons. Hey, just check out the latest news releases from North Korea if you think I'm in error.

The putting wings on pigs line was lifted from an instagram message from Brinsley who, shortly before he murdered the two officers wrote, "I'm putting wings on pigs. They take 1 of ours. Let's take 2 of theirs."

To say Mr. Brinsley didn't like the police is a bit of an understatement, but then he didn't seem to like anyone very much. Earlier in the day, down in the Baltimore area, he shot and critically wounded his ex-girl friend, Shaneka Nicole Thompson who isn't on a police force anywhere. There is no word if Jimmy Woods blames Sharpton for that act of violence too, although he seems on a roll and probably will somewhere down the line.

According to reports, the police had popped Brinsley at least 19 times in the past, mostly in Georgia for petty gangster wannabe stuff. New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was quoted as saying he had also attempted suicide last year.

Of course not everyone blames the good reverend for the deaths of officers Wenjian Liu and Raphael Ramos. The president of the New York City police union, Patrick Lynch issued a statement which said, "There is blood on many hands tonight. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor." His reasoning is the mayor has begun to rethink police training and procedures when it comes to minorities and His Honor also seemed to question a grand jury's finding.

All this began when a Staten Island panel refused to indict NYPD officers in the death of Eric Garner on December third, despite a ruling by the medical examiner which said his death was a homicide. Garner, a master criminal who committed the heinous crime of selling individual untaxed cigarettes on a street corner, died in July after police took him to the sidewalk in a choke hold. The decision came hard on the heels of a Missouri grand jury verdict which failed to indict Ferguson, MO policeman Darren Williams after he shot and killed an unarmed African American, Michael Brown.

Sharpton's National Action Network organized protests in Missouri and New York. In every instance Sharpton has called for peaceful and non-violent demonstrations. After the tragedy in Brooklyn he was quoted as saying, "Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in connection with violence, or killing of police is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases."

There is no pleasing some people though. It looks as if Woods and Lynch believe if you exercise your constitutional right to actually question the actions of the police, you're actively telling members of the community to kill cops.

Yeah, yeah and those of us who protested the Vietnam conflict not only committed treason, but ultimately cost us the war.

In the end, there is no questioning the bravery and service of the overwhelming majority of police. On the other hand, however, there can be no questioning the anger and frustration felt by a portion of the population who are routinely rousted simply because of the color of their skin. Finally there can be no question those people and others have the right to peacefully speak their minds and demonstrate.

There are plenty of insane people in this country and practically every one of them has a loaded gun. All they need is an excuse.

Tragically, like too many Americans of every race, Ismaaiyl Brinsley finally found one and last Saturday he acted on it.



12-22-14

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday at the Movies: "The Interview," North Korea, and The Guardians of Peace--You Can't Buy This Kind of Publicity

Sony didn't pull the movie because they're scared. They pulled the movie because all the theaters said they were not going to run it.

George Clooney



That is what happens when corporate lawyers begin using words like litigation and liability in the board rooms of theater chains. It is unclear exactly how North Korea could pull off a terrorist attack on your local AMC multiplex if it dared show a comedy about the assassination of its leader. However, the philosophy right now is its  best to err on the side of caution and avoid the chance of a massive payout.

Unfortunately caution in this instance appears a tad like cowardice. At least that's what it seems when you do exactly what the clowns who issued dire threats of terrorism want at the very moment they wanted it. Especially after Sony announced it would not release "The Interview" in any form and appeared ready to eat the entire $42 million the studio spent on making it.

At the moment the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is maintaining its innocence in the cyber attack on Sony Pictures. They say they have no idea who the hackers, the self proclaimed "Guardians of Peace," are, even though they did call the looting of Sony's electronic records, "a righteous deed." The FBI on the other hand disagrees and said, "the tools and infrastructure of the attack are similar to previous activity from North Korea."

After Barack Obama promised a proportionate response the North Koreans, God bless 'em, issued a statement offering a, "proposal for a joint investigation" into the hack attack. Then, typically, threatened the U.S. with, "serious consequences," if we didn't agree to the "proposal."

This after they called the movie, "A most blatant act of terrorism and war," and promised, "merciless counter measures" if it was released.

Well what do you expect from an outfit who used to routinely kidnap Japanese citizens and take them back to North Korea to teach their spies how to speak the language. Not to mention a place run by a dictator who executed his own uncle, according to one report, by feeding him to a pack of ravenous dogs. Yes, it is easy to see the concepts of freedom of expression and diplomacy just don't, as we say, compute in the DPRK.

Besides the proportional response bit, the president also said Sony had made a mistake by pulling the picture. Although, in all honesty, it seems silly to release it if the only place you can find to show it is The Winchester Drive In Theater in south Oklahoma City. Obama added, "We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States."

Sony pictures CEO, Michael Lynton shot back at Obama saying the company wanted everyone to see the film, seemingly confirming what Clooney said. That still doesn't explain why the corporation announced it wouldn't distribute the movie on DVD, or put it on some premium pay for view outlet. Of course Lynton knows exactly what sort of information is now in the hands of the Guardians of Peace which could be the reason. Indeed, the Amy Pascal-Scott Rudin jokes about what movies America's first black president likes may well be the least damaging emails which could be made public.

So, who knows if "The Interview," will ever see the inside of a theater, or not. One thing is for sure though--if Sony and some chain finds the courage, Seth Rogen and everyone else involved with making it, including the studio, are going to rake in tons of cash. The North Koreans and the Guardians of Peace, whoever and where ever they are, have guaranteed it.

As someone once said, you can't buy this kind of publicity.



12-20-14

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Old Cuban Policy: The Quality is More Myth Than Satisfying

Here is how long it has been going on. In October of 1960, while Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, the government of the United States banned all U.S. exports, except for food and medicine to Cuba. On February 7, 1961 John F. Kennedy took it a step further by announcing all Cuban made goods would be banned from these shores.

The embargo would include those Cuban cigars he loved so much. Since he knew how things were going to break in advance, Jack Kennedy ordered his Press Secretary to make a cigar run a couple of days before the ban went into effect. Years later Pierre Salinger wrote that the next morning he personally delivered 1,201 Cuban made Petit H. Upmann cigars to the White House. It is unclear if JFK had smoked them all before that terrible day in Dallas two and a half years later.

The whole embargo was meant to put so much duress on the Cuban economy that the regime of Fidel Castro would collapse. Then came the CIA backed Bay of Pigs invasion which failed in part because, to the surprise of all those expert analysts in Langley, the Cuban people refused to rise up in support of the exiles hitting the beach. The last major crisis was in 1962 when the Russians began installing offensive nuclear weapons on the island. Before it was over the entire world came to within a hair of Armageddon.

Since then the Berlin Wall has been torn down and the old Soviet Union broke apart. The communist Chinese have proven themselves to be far better at capitalism than the capitalists on Wall St. and we have an embassy in Hanoi, a town we were bombing the living shit out of in the late 1960's.

However when it came to Cuba nothing changed. That includes the government of Fidel and now Raul Castro. Yes they survived Eisenhower and Kennedy, then Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, another Bush, and Barack Obama. That is a half century plus of American presidents.

One could safely say the policy initiated back when this old man was ten years old hasn't worked.

This morning, while basically admitting to the utter failure of the American strategy, the president took action to begin the normalization of relations with Cuba. According to a variety of sources it took a year of secret negotiations in places like Canada and the Vatican to get to this point.

The deal included the release of American Alan Gross from a Cuban prison, along with a Cuban described only as a U.S. intelligence asset who has been languishing in a cell for 20 or so years. The Cubans got back three of their people being held in American lock ups.

It didn't take long for a couple of politicians of Cuban descent to start howling. Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ completely ignored what Obama said about the exchange of that freed asset. He was quoted as saying, "Lets be clear this was not a humanitarian act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American."

Florida republican senator Marco Rubio jabbered something about none of this doing anything except enabling the Castro regime to become a permanent fixture for generations.

First, Obama was quite clear in his speech. The release of Gross was not tied to any sort of trade. The swap was strictly their three spies for our one.

As for Rubio's nonsense, Obama said, "I don't believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect different results."

That's right, Senator. Maybe we should try something new for a change, because what we've been doing certainly hasn't worked.

Both of those clowns might want to take a look at the results of a Pew Poll taken in February of this year. It found 56% of Americans were in favor of improved relations with Cuba as opposed to 35% who are opposed. In Florida, even with a large Cuban-American population, the numbers were a stunning 63% for relaxing relations to 30% wanting to retain the status quo.

Of course executive action can only go so far. While Obama can set up an embassy in Havana, change travel restrictions, and loosen up rules on the amount of cash being sent by Americans to relatives living on the island, he needs a majority of both houses of congress to lift the embargo. And we all know how well that has worked out for him lately.

Yes, if you're an American cigar aficionado who has never smoked a genuine Cuban don't count on getting your hands on one any time soon.

Hey, trust me, it isn't anything to fret about. I've smoked a few over the years in places like Grenada, Belize, and Canada--their quality is more myth than satisfying. 

Indeed, in the end, they are rather like the embargo itself.

Ladies and gentlemen, with that in mind, the bar is open.


12-17-14

Monday, December 15, 2014

Two Years Ago Yesterday in Newtown

Two years ago yesterday Adam Lanza began his morning by killing his mother as she lay in her bed. He then he drove over to Sandy Hook Elementary School. Prior to blowing his own diseased brains out he murdered 20 students, babies really and six staff members. He was able to run up the body count quickly because he was using his mom's Bushmaster XM15-E25. She had been teaching him to shoot over the years so he would learn "discipline and responsibility."

According to a Wall Street Journal story written by Joseph De Avila Bushmaster Firearms International is owned by the Remington Outdoor Company. It is, in turn, owned by Cerberus Capital Management. Shortly after Lanza ran amok Cerberus claimed they would sell Remington, but the article says Cerberus claims they haven't found a buyer yet. In addition there is an outfit named Camfour which distributes Bushmaster products to retailers such as Riverview Gun Sales of East Windsor, Connecticut. Riverview Gun Sales is where Nancy Lanza legally purchased the murder weapon.

Now, 24 months after the nightmare at Sandy Hook, all those different entities are named in a law suit filed by nine of the victims families. De Avila writes that the paper work has been handed over to a state marshal who has 30 days to serve the defendants.

De Avila quotes Jillian Soto, the sister of Victoria Soto who died that day, as saying, "We keep seeing this happen. We keep seeing mass shootings at schools. And something has to be done." He also quoted her brother, Carlos who said, "If nothing is going to change federally we might as well try in court."

He is right, nothing is going to change on the federal level as long as the National Rifle Association bribes and extorts member of congress with boat loads of money and vile threats. Nothing is going to change because huge numbers of Americans have a sick and overpowering fetish when it comes to firearms. If you even hint at removing something like a Bushmaster XM15 from store shelves they whirl like dervishes and howl to the moon.

De Avila cited Remington's CEO, George Kollitides as handing out the same old bull about a year ago in an interview. He fell back on the, "it isn't the gun's fault" excuse which we hear ad nauseam from those who feel they can't get an erection with out a weapon somewhere close at hand. He ultimately claimed Adam Lanza and Adam Lanza alone was responsible for the butchery that bright winter day.

Yes, it isn't our fault the kid was bat shit crazy. His mother should have known better.

Well she didn't and she ended up being the first to go. Hell, she was so oblivious it has been widely reported her Christmas present to Adam that year was a gift certificate to a gun store. If  the deadly little geek hadn't gone off his nut when he did he could have cashed it in for a weapon with practically no questions asked. That is what Jimmy Holmes did in Colorado. He was as mad as a hatter on acid and he was able to arm himself better than many guerrilla armies. So did Seung-hiu Cho before he opened fire at Virginia Tech. The list goes on and on.

De Avila says the suit will charge that everyone involved with the manufacture, distribution and sale of the weapon, "...sold a firearm unfit for civilian use." In other words, if General Dynamics were to sell a M1A2 Abrams tank to Ted Nugent they would be just as culpable as he would be after he used it to assault the Democratic National Convention.

The attorney representing the plaintiffs was quoted as saying, "There is so much ample evidence of the inability of the civilian world to control these weapons that it is no longer reasonable to entrust them for that purpose. How many massacres do there have to be before that is?"

Unfortunately the answer to his question isn't known at this time, because it is painfully obvious we haven't gotten there yet.

No other industrialized nation in the world would put up with this madness. Are they any less free than we are?

In fact, in the final analysis, we can seriously question how free Americans really are if millions of citizens are too frightened to leave home without a gun. That doesn't sound like freedom, but it does reek of chaos and anarchy, not to mention clinical paranoia.

Will the law suit be successful? Probably not. Even if it is initially won, all those corporate lawyers, backed by an unlimited supply of cash, will drag it through an unending appeals process and eventually they'll find a judge somewhere to overturn the verdict.

In every sense of the word America is addicted to guns.

And like all addictions it will eventually kill us. Just ask the people in Newtown, Connecticut. They have the grave stones to prove it.


sic vita est


12-15-14

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rectal Hydration in the Name of Truth, Justice, and the American Way

The sheer ugliness of it is breathtaking. There is no other way to describe things like rectal hydration, sleep deprivation, prolonged standing, and stress positions.

The Senate report on CIA interrogation techniques in the years following the 2001 attacks includes all those terms and more. There is also stuff like secret prisons located in dark corners of places such as Poland and Thailand, not to mention cover ups intended to keep people like then Secretary of State Colin Powell from, as one memo put it, "blowing his stack."

Yes, when it comes to that sort of business it is best to keep the decent people out of the loop. There is no telling what they might say, or do in response to all the gruesome brutality being committed in the name of Truth, Justice and the American Way.

There are currently two versions of the usefulness of what the CIA prefers to describe as "enhanced interrogation." The first is expressed by people such as Georgia republican Senator Saxby Chambliss. It is that water boarding and the like was a necessary evil, but it provided us with viable intelligence and prevented further attacks. The second is it didn't do diddly squat and in fact led the CIA on many a wild goose chase. That is the report's conclusion.

It is also the opinion of Senator John McCain, R-AZ. He should know. McCain is the only sitting U.S. politician who has been on the wrong end of such goings on. In his words, "I know from first hand experience that harsh treatment of prisoners does not provide accurate intelligence."

That would be the old, Tell Them What They Want to Hear Rather Than What You Really Know response after having the nozzle of a water hose shoved up your ass.

According to the report it is exactly what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did on several occasions while he was the guest of the CIA. It was something the people who were performing the "enhanced interrogation" seemed to realize, although they kept on doing it for several weeks even after practically everyone at the top had come to the same conclusion.

Apparently the methods used by CIA operatives were developed by two psychologists who have been identified as James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Their firm landed a $180 million contract from the government in order to come up with lovely ideas such as confining a prisoner in a small coffin like box for days on end. NBC reports the contract was terminated in 2009, but by then Mitchell and Jessen had already been paid $81 million for their creative input.

The report says neither of them had any interrogation experience, didn't speak Arabic, and had no real knowledge of Al Qaeda, or its personnel. Mitchell, who reportedly spent 30 years in the Air Force, was quoted by NBC as saying those charges are, "...flat wrong."

In fact, as far as he is concerned, the whole report is nothing more than a $40 million scam. He released a statement saying, "What they are asking you to believe is that multiple directors of the CIA and analysts who made their living for years doing this lied to the federal government, or were too stupid to know that the intelligence they were getting wasn't useful."

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden went even further. He told NBC none of this horrific shit should even be considered torture. Mr. Hayden who served as the Spy In Chief from 2006 to 2009 also said the treatment the prisoners received was mild compared to what happens in other parts of the world. In other words there are plenty of people out there who should be so lucky.

Well, you have to say something don't you.

On the other end of the spectrum Senator Mark Udall, D-CO claims the subterfuge is ongoing to this day. He says current CIA Director John Brennan promised complete cooperation with the investigation during his confirmation hearing. According to Udall the very moment Brennan became the agency's head he did an about face and abetted by Barack H. Obama himself, continues to hide the truth from the American public.

Whatever the case might be the report makes it clear that those among us who still claim the United States of America is a morally superior nation might want to rethink their position.

There are plenty of governments on this ball who treat prisoners savagely. Tragically we are one of them. That terrible truth isn't going to go away no matter what the excuses.

The uber patriots will probably continue to deny it. The rest of us, if we really believe in America, can't afford to.



12-10-14

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Five Million Dollar Brain Freeze, Anna Chapman's Proposal, and Backing Out of Dinner: We All Have Our Weaknesses

Sometimes things just don't work out.

They certainly didn't for Bob Stoops early last Saturday evening. Mr. Stoops is paid $5 million a year to be the head coach of the University of Oklahoma's football team. The Sooners, as they are known, were clinging to a seven point lead with a little over one minute to play against Oklahoma State. They were also facing fourth down and fourteen yards to go. Stoops called for the obvious play. His team punted the ball to OSU. The person set to receive the kick was a young man named Tyreek Hill. He is primarily a track guy and is really, really fast. So fast in fact, this past spring, during an indoor meet, he ran a hundred meters in a time which would have placed him 5th at the last Olympics.

The ball was kicked and the coverage was superb. Hill was forced to call for a fair catch at the OSU 15 yard line with 1:01 left in the game. Then things went south. An Oklahoma State lineman had run  into the OU punter and a penalty was called. At this point Bob Stoops had two choices. First, decline the five yard penalty, thereby forcing OSU, who had no time outs left, to drive 85 yards in 61 seconds of game time for a tying touchdown. Second, take the penalty, move the ball five yards forward, but be forced to kick once more to Tyreek Hill.

Proving a huge salary doesn't prevent brain freeze Coach Stoops chose to take the penalty and kick the ball again. This time the coverage wasn't so great. Tyreek Hill caught the football then took off down the sideline, doing  an amazing imitation of the comic book super hero, The Flash. He covered the 92 yards to the Oklahoma end zone at a speed judged to be at about Mach3. Suddenly the game was tied and headed to overtime. Shortly thereafter Oklahoma State kicked a game winning field goal and people like me began wondering aloud if Stoops, despite the size of his paycheck, was on the take.

Besides the ol' coach, others haven't done so hot lately either. The Mail online is reporting that a defector has said the head honchos of the Russian spy agency FSB (formerly the KGB) ordered resident hottie Anna Chapman to seduce and marry American Edward Snowden.

Snowden is the former NSA dude who is currently living in Russia because he released reams of classified documents to the world. Many consider him a valiant whistle blower while the government of these United States calls him a traitor and wants to chuck his ass into the slammer for more years than anyone can count.

The defector, Boris Karpichkov, claims Chapman, nee Kushchyenko, who at one point married a British citizen in order to be able to spy on the UK, had met Snowden only once. Despite the apparent unfamiliarity she proposed to him in July. The working theory was once the couple was married Snowden would be eligible to become a Russian citizen. Then, after he became one, the government could hang onto him, because Russians need official permission to go anywhere outside the country.

Yes, it sounds a bit convoluted and overly hopeful, but according to Karpichkov it is what happened. Unfortunately for the Russians, Snowden smelled a rat and didn't bite on the proposal. Well, either that or he simply wasn't impressed with it. It seems Ms. Chapman popped the question via twitter with this highly romantic, not to mention provocative message, "Snowden, will you marry me?"

When she isn't marrying Brits, proposing to American fugitives, or spying in some other capacity The Mail reports Anna Chapman is a popular, "TV Presenter," model, and that she owns a brand of clothing.
  
Finally we have Paul Rosalie. Rosalie, according to the Discovery Channel, is a snake expert who is out to save the Amazon rain forest. He is so dedicated to his cause he convinced the boobs who run the cable network to televise him being eaten alive by a giant Green Anaconda.

The show, which was apparently taped months ago, aired last night. Rosalie, dressed in a, "crush proof suit," reportedly spent an hour and forty minutes of the two hour event trying unsuccessfully to rustle up a 27 foot long monster. According to Deadline's Lisa deMoraes when that failed a substitute snake was provided and the meal began.

Just minutes into the feast it dawned on Mr. Rosalie the whole idea might be a tad flawed. According to deMoraes he quickly called for his crew to rescue him and they pulled him out of the coils of death.

The Discovery Channel was immediately bombarded by a slew of tweets which at best can be called derisive. Perhaps because I do everything I can to avoid the fully functioning insane my first thought when looking at some of the caustic messages was, why were you rubes watching this nonsense in the first place? What did you think you'd gain from it? But, hey, that's just me.

Of course I should never cast stones because I'm certainly not without sin. After all, I was one of the 85,00 saps who spent $125 for a ticket, then sat in the cold and fog for nearly four hours only to watch Bob Stoops have a mental meltdown worthy of both Russian spymasters and self proclaimed snake experts.

Indeed, we all have our weaknesses


sic vita est


12-8-14

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Eric Garner and Daniel Pantaleo: No True Bill

Parents should tell their children to fear criminals and not the police.

Patrick Lynch, President of the New York Police Department Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.




Yeah, well that has been getting a little tougher to do after the last six months, or so.

Back in July, Eric Garner, a nearly morbidly obese African American who suffered from asthma, was allegedly selling individual, untaxed, cigarettes on a street. Apparently it was and is a crime worthy of intense investigation, not to mention incredibly aggressive enforcement. You know, along the lines of a squad of narcs busting a crazed cocaine fiend who is working for the Russian mob.

A group of NYPD officers led by Daniel Pantaleo violently took him down onto the concrete sidewalk during an arrest. In an amateur video which shows the tail end of the incident, Garner is backing away from one cop, while raising his hands and saying something along the lines of, "...get away from me." At almost the exact same moment Pantaleo, who was behind the suspect, wraps his forearm across Garner's throat and hangs on for dear life as the big man first lurches back and then forward to the ground.

At the bottom of the ensuing dog pile you can hear Garner saying, "I can't breathe," over and over as Pantaleo continues to hold on and other officers press down on his head and back.

According to the New York PBA there was never any "choke hold" applied to Eric Garner because, hey, choke holds are against department policy. According to them officer Pantaleo applied a legal "take down move" which is standard operating procedure for NYC police. Despite those reassuring words, everyone who has watched the video immediately steps into that foggy realm known as, the fine line. To say you don't is utter denial of what you're witnessing.

Mr. Garner died shortly afterward. The New York City Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide. The other day a Staten Island grand jury disagreed and returned a verdict of, "no true bill," which essentially cleared Daniel Pantaleo of any wrong doing.

Crowds of protesters immediately took to the streets. New York City mayor, Bill DeBlasio described the jury's decision as, "one that many in our city did not want."

His statement prompted Pat Lynch to accuse the mayor of throwing the police, "under the bus." It also moved him to say, "We feel badly there was a loss of life, but unfortunately Mr. Garner made a choice that day to resist arrest. The lesson learned should be to comply with police officers even if they feel an arrest is unjust." He went on to add, "You cannot resist arrest because resisting arrest leads to confrontation. Confrontation leads to tragedy."

In other words, do what we say and let us cart you off into a system where the very concept of justice is completely dependent on your ability to afford a competent lawyer--or--we have every right to kill you. Right, that notion certainly must inspire confidence in persons of color.

Of course there are a slew of fairy tales which many in this great land insist on filling their heads with, despite wide spread evidence to the contrary. Not the least of them is you're innocent until proven guilty. Another being everyone gets a fair trial. Such fables are believed mostly by white people because it reinforces their fantasy that the United States is the greatest democracy in the world and every citizen is treated the same.

In the end, no matter what the perspective, everyone here must acknowledge there are a lot of evil people in this nation and too many of them have guns. And--no one will ever be able to accuse the police of having an easy job. However, if we actually believe in America and the freedom we want to think it represents, there are no blank checks when it comes to enforcing the law.

Having a badge doesn't excuse you from choking someone out, or shooting an unarmed kid. Everyone, especially the police, has to be responsible for what they do.

 Hopefully at some point all of us will figure that out.


12-4-14

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Rand Paul Has a Problem in Kentucky and Jeb Bush Talks to the Money Men

Chuck Todd writes that Rand Paul has a bit of a problem in Kentucky. According to the NBC News story Paul claims he will run for re-election to the senate in 2016. While that is all fine and dandy a state law says his name can't appear twice on a ballot. In other words if Paul seeks the republican nomination for the senate seat he now holds his name can't be on the list of GOP presidential hopefuls during the same primary.

Todd says Paul's people are attacking this conundrum on two fronts. First they are trying to get the law changed so he can attempt the double dip. That might be tougher than it sounds though since democrats control the state house. In case the maneuver doesn't pan out his crew is also trying to get the selection process changed from a voter controlled primary election to a caucus. The working theory is that since caucuses don't have paper ballots--the totals are tabulated through either a voice vote, or show of hands--technically his name wouldn't appear twice on a ballot.

God bless lawyers. They never cease to amaze.

In the same story Todd reports John Ellis Bush sat down at a conference of CEOs sponsored by The Wall Street Journal yesterday. Better known as Jeb, the former Florida governor, made it clear if he did run for the republican presidential nomination it would be on his terms.

He was quoted as telling the group, "I don't know if I'd be a good candidate, or a bad one. I kinda know how a republican can win whether it is me, or someone else--and it has to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles. It is not an easy task to be honest with you."

No it isn't. When he tells all those tea party whack jobs he is for immigration reform and Common Core in the schools they are going to scream bloody murder right before they vote for some cretin like Ted Cruz.

In response to a question asking if a republican could win the nomination without advocating things like free fire zones on the border he said, "Well frankly no one really knows that because it hasn't been tried recently." Yes, well there is a reason it hasn't.

In the end, Bush might just be the guy the GOP needs to woo some of those Hispanic voters in 2016. His wife was born in Mexico, he has a B.A. in Latin American Studies, and he speaks fluent Spanish. The problem he has is getting to them. As we've seen time and time again the influence of the ultra right in republican primaries far outweighs their capacity to win general elections--and many a soul has been sold to them.

Of course, before we get all warm and fuzzy about Jeb Bush it should be remembered he not only told African American voters he'd do nothing for them, but ultimately he was the guy in charge in Florida when Al Gore got so viciously screwed.

Indeed, once a werewolf always a werewolf.

And these dogs don't even need a full moon.


12-2-14

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday Here, Mad Englishmen Over There, Green Friday in Colorado, and God Bless the Germans

There's a man going around taking names
and he decides who to free and who to blame
everyone won't be treated quite the same...

From the Johnny Cash song, "The Man Comes Around"



Hopefully the greedy twits who came up with the idea of "Black Friday" will be among those who, as Cash sang, won't be treated quite the same. Yes, there is nothing like kicking off the Christmas season, which supposedly celebrates the birth of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ--aka--the Prince of Peace, with a mad and some times riotous dash for stuff. 

Of course the corporate marketing slugs who plotted this nonsense aren't the only ones to blame. If huge mobs of people didn't continually act as abysmally as those brutes predicted this insanity would go away in a year, or two. That's right, if everyone would actually spend time with their families on Thanksgiving and the day after, rather than stampeding like great herds of buffalo through the aisles of places like Wal-Mart and Best Buy the same assholes who created the problem would quickly put an end to it.

Tragically that isn't going to happen and now the madness is spreading. Agence France-Presse is reporting huge angry crowds of shoppers ran wild all over the United Kingdom last night after the British gurus of retail decided to import the ridiculous phenomenon. It got so bad the AFP story said Tesco, Britain's largest retail chain, actually had to close a number of stores because their customers were so out of control. One person quoted in the story said it was bad enough that the woman, "at the till was crying she was so terrified." Police were called to several locations in order to help with crowd control.

And--although it appalls me to no end to have to say this--given the current level of local education, I feel I'm forced to. Ladies and gentlemen of the United States, the British don't observe a Thanksgiving Day. Now whether that makes them crazier than us, or not, given what happened last night, is clearly up for debate.

Every year the greed heads begin the lunacy a little earlier. Here in the states more and more stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day itself. That means their employees are stuck dealing with fully functioning, if only temporary, psychopaths rather than enjoying the traditional feast with their loved ones. The collective company philosophy being--well--screw 'em. They're minimum wage and need the money anyway.

This year in Colorado some retailers are calling it, "Green Friday." They would be the ones selling legal marijuana to the local population. Sure, why not? Get in the mix and offer deep discounts on the bud just because it is the day after the holiday. Hey, if it works for the electronics department of Target, why won't it for someplace with a name like, Tommy Chong's Emporium of Magic Brownies.

Western civilization should be grateful there are a few places who, for now anyway, still avoid the temptation to jump into the deep end with us and the Brits. The International Business Times reports there are no signs of Black Friday craziness spreading to Spain and France. When asked if German stores had considered holding massive sales on the day after an American holiday, one retailer had this terse reply, "We are not Americans."

I didn't think I'd ever say it, but, God bless the Germans.

Indeed. Someone on this blue ball has to remain sane.

Now, given the circumstances, I'd like to thank Mr. Gordon of Linden, New Jersey for his patience. Sir, I will be with you shortly.


11-28-14


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Darren Wilson Knows He Did His Job Right, Everyone Else Isn't So Sure

I know I did my job right.

Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer, Darren Wilson.





A lot of people are taking exception to that statement right now. So much so hundreds, if not thousands have taken to the streets not only in Ferguson, but other cities across the land. A few of them have decided Michael Brown's death and a grand jury's failure to indict Wilson, is a great excuse to set things on fire. Not to mention score the ultimate Thanksgiving weekend sale price on merchandise--you know--for free. That's right, nothing shows solidarity with the Brown family quite so much as smashing a store front window, grabbing as many bottles of scotch as you can, and then taking off for parts unknown.

Everything about this entire rotten affair stinks to high heaven. No one can agree on the way the shooting went down, or how the subsequent investigation was handled. Even the timing of the announcement of the grand jury's finding is coming under fire. Indeed, the verdict, if it can be called that, was reached at noon. The results weren't announced until 8pm, well after sundown, putting the police, who were charged with maintaining the peace, at a distinct disadvantage. It was a move criticized both by law enforcement experts nationwide and local officials.

It appears even the governor utterly screwed the pooch. Last week, prior to the decision, Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Ferguson and activated units of the National Guard. Then in a move so incompetent it calls into question his higher brain functions, he didn't actually put them onto the streets of the St. Louis suburb until after things went out of control and businesses were lost. Everyone from Ferguson mayor James Knowles to community leaders bitterly complained about it yesterday.

The prosecutor who ran the grand jury, Robert P. McCulloch has been condemned and praised for the way he handled the proceedings. The New York times quoted Noah Feldman, who teaches constitutional law at Harvard, as saying, "It looks like he wanted to create the the appearance that there had been a public trial when in fact there hadn't been." He went on to add, "...the prosecutor didn't want an indictment and didn't want to be blamed for not getting one."

McCulloch bent over backward to be neutral in the presentation of evidence to the 12 person jury. Such neutrality is extremely rare when it comes to grand juries. Usually the prosecutor aggressively goes after an indictment, although there was and is nothing usual about what is happening in St. Louis County at the moment. Under normal circumstances evidence isn't presented to a grand jury until police feel they have probable cause and an arrest has been made. Wilson had not been arrested. Syracuse, New York D.A. William Fitzpatrick said because of that fact, "It absolutely should have been a neutral presentation." Others are claiming that by being neutral McCulloch was intentionally steering jurors away from an indictment.

With that in mind, McCulloch bombarded the panel of three African Americans and nine white people with 60 witnesses during 70 hours of testimony. Much of the eyewitness testimony was so contradictory the transcript reads like a story composed by Franz Kafka.

Depending on the witness, Michael Brown was described as either charging Wilson like an enraged bull, or staggering toward him with his hands out and palms up, as if offering to surrender. Others said his hands were over his head, while one went so far as to say he was on his knees. When asked why he pursued Mr. Brown, Wilson said he did it because that's what he is trained to do. In other words he wasn't going to just sit there and wait on back up while his assailant fled the scene. This despite knowing he was physically over matched and Brown was wounded and bleeding.

The autopsies, all three of them, told the jury how many times Brown was shot and approximately at what distances, but all the science in the world can't determine exactly what his intent was in that fatal moment. Even the position of the final kill shot--in the top of the head--could be interpreted in a couple of different ways.

There won't be any word on how the grand jury voted, but it would have taken nine of them to agree in order to indict. No one knows, but it could have been an eight to four vote to send Wilson to trial, or some other combination.

We do know one thing though. The grand jury was not required to find beyond a reasonable doubt the evidence proved, Officer Wilson should be indicted. An indictment is not a guilty verdict. It is simply a call for a criminal trial to take place. Then and only then, will a judge and another 12 souls, determine guilt or innocence.

The other thing we know is, at least right now, an actual trial isn't going to happen. At least not as far as the state of Missouri is concerned. Legally, they are done with Darren Wilson. What they aren't done with is the aftermath of that early Saturday afternoon in August.




sic vita est

11-26-14

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri and Presidential Polls: Only Time Will Tell

That Missouri grand jury apparently has come to a decision on whether to indict Ferguson police officer, Darren Williams in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. According to reports both the St. Louis County prosecutor and the Missouri governor are preparing for news conferences to be held later in the day.

So, as police and possibly National Guard units prepare to deploy perhaps it is best to consider another subject until we know what is going to happen on the banks of the Mississippi.

Late last week NBC and The Wall Street Journal commissioned a poll to look at where potential 2016 presidential candidates stand at the moment. The results show Americans don't like any of them very much.

On the democratic side, for an unfathomable reason, the poll covered two candidates. When asked about Jumpin' Joe Biden 35% of respondents viewed him favorably while 38% considered him negatively. Of course a Biden candidacy is a doomed enterprise unless Hillary Rodham Clinton stuns everyone by deciding not to run.

Mrs. Clinton's positive rating was 43% while her negative number was 40%. If there is such a thing as a perfect example of the political divide in this nation, she is it. 78% of democrats who were asked gave her a favorable rating while 81% of republicans ranked her unfavorably.

It gets bleaker on the GOP side.

Rand Paul's positive number was 26% versus the negative which is 23%. Marco Rubio was up 21% to 19%. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, currently a FOX News shill, was viewed positively by 35% and negatively by 24%.

Those three potential republican candidates were the only ones with their heads above water. The two good ol' boys from Texas, Ted Cruz and Rick Perry polled 16% positive to 26% negative and 20% positive to 29% negative respectively. Jeb Bush, who is mulling over an attempted extension of the family dynasty, polled 26% positive and 33% negative. NJ governor, Chris Christie broke even at 29% each.

The big man has a problem though. His negative rating among republicans--you know--the people who will be voting in the primaries, is 19%. Cruz's negative rating among the faithful is 12% and Bush's is 13%. Huckabee seems to be the only one who energizes the grass roots at this time. His favorable rating among fellow travelers is 52% while his negative number is 8%.

What all this means is any one's guess. Cruz has never done well outside of that bad acid trip known as the tea party and Perry could well be considered an abject loser by many on the right. A backlash to anti immigration reform might have something to do with it, although Bush's pro reform stand certainly hasn't given him any momentum.

Obviously Huckabee's presence on FOX has helped his image. Let's face it, it's impossible not to look and sound presidential when you're on a network populated by lying cretins like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity.

Wisconsin governor Scott Wilson and Dr. Ben Carson were also thrown in the mix. Wilson's positive number with members of the GOP is a respectable 27%, but falls to 15% overall. Carson's positive is just above 10%, although Carrie Dann's article says he does much better with tea party types. Unfortunately there are a couple of stunning stats both men will have to overcome between now and 2016. According to the poll, 54% of everyone asked didn't realize Scott Wilson is a governor of anything. Then--when it comes to Ben Carson--61% said they don't know who the fuck he is. In the initial months of their campaigns, the two of them are going to have spend a ton of valuable advertising dollars on time which does nothing more than let the general public know who they are.

So there we have it here on what could be a long night in the greater St. Louis metro. In both cases only time well tell--although one is going to happen much quicker than the other.


sic vita est

11-24-14







Friday, November 21, 2014

Obama Acts, Republicans Rage, and Who is That Laughing?

Whether you voted for Barack H. Obama, or not, you'll have to admit one thing--he certainly knows how to piss off the right wing.

A little over 500 days ago the senate passed an immigration reform bill. In a moment so rare it almost ranks as science fiction the measure was put together and supported by both democrats and republicans. Unfortunately after moving out of the senate it had to go through that mob of miscreants who are known as the house of representatives.

As we know all too well, the lower chamber is infested with a frighteningly large number of tea party cranks who think the only true answer to the immigration question is shoot all the immigrants. John Boehner, who in theory is in charge of the house, not to mention the republican caucus, has about as much control over these clowns as the Iraqi government does over ISIS.

Because he lacks any semblance of balls, Mr. Boehner's response to the immigration issue in general and the senate's bill in particular has been to do nothing at all. That's right, ignore it, maybe it will go away.

Last night the president decided he'd had enough of the speaker's bull shit. He employed an executive order which will take the heat off nearly five million people who are living here now without proper documentation. The vast majority of them are parents of citizens of these United States. The action doesn't provide a pathway to citizenship for anyone, nor does it mean we're going to stop patrolling the southern border. Actually it will free up money and personnel so border security can be tightened.

Boehner's initial response was, "Instead of working together to fix our broken immigration system the president is acting on his own. That's just not how our democracy works." The speaker did not mention how the president would be able work with a house that has repeatedly wasted its time by voting to repeal The Affordable Care Act and he didn't make any counter proposals. In fact he didn't even drop a hint there might be a house bill in the works on the issue.

Anticipating such blatant nonsense the president said in the speech last night, "To those members of congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting when congress has failed, I have one answer. Pass a bill."

Indeed. Pull your heads out of your tail ends and do something.

Today Boehner began to ratchet up the rhetoric. He was quoted as saying, "By ignoring the will of the people President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left."

He isn't the only one yammering away wildly. Republicans great and small are screeching to the high heavens. Outgoing OK senator Tom Coburn went so far as to tell USA Today, "The country is going to go nuts, because they're going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president and it is going to be a very serious situation. You're going to see--hopefully not--instances of anarchy. You could see violence." Of course when Coburn says, the country, what he really means is conservative white people. It is highly doubtful the Hispanic population, among others, will take up arms because of what the president did.

Out in Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio filed a law suit to stop the order. Arpaio has spent the last six plus years claiming Obama was born someplace other than here and is ineligible to be president. His department has also been whacked on the wrist for racially profiling Latinos.

When it comes to immigration, Jack Kennedy used executive action and so did, Ronald--by God--Reagan. George Bush and Billy Jeff Clinton did also. The only differences between then and now are the number of people impacted and the president doing it is named Barack Obama.

Yes, because it is Obama this time around one can almost hear that railroad named impeachment clickety-clacking  down the tracks in the distance. The proudly righteous have been aching for an excuse. Now they will believe they have one. Unfortunately, for them, even in January, they won't have two thirds of the senate which is needed to convict and remove the president from office.

That's right, sometimes real life simply doesn't play out the way you want.

Then, finally, for those of you currently rending your garments in rage, if you listen closely there is something else you will be able to hear--it would be the ghost of Crazy Horse laughing his arse off.

Hey, can you blame him?



11-21-14

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Expecting the Worst, a State of Emergency in Ferguson, Missouri

Around noon on Saturday, August 9th of this year 18 year old Michael Brown and a friend named, Dorian Johnson were walking down the middle of a Ferguson, Missouri street. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis is located on the near north west side of the city, close to Lambert International Airport. It is over 60% black. The police department is almost exclusively white. Officer Darren Wilson, driving alone in his unit, spotted the pair and pulled up next to them. Within a minute of the meeting, Brown, who was unarmed, was shot to death by the six year veteran of the department.

At least two witnesses, one of them Johnson, claim Brown, who was an African American, was shot at a distance as he faced Wilson with his hands raised in the air. Johnson added that Brown had attempted to flee the scene, but after the officer opened fire he stopped and turned. Then, while he was walking back toward Wilson, attempting to surrender, the cop opened up on him. Darren Wilson, who is white, claims Brown came through the window of the car at him and attempted to grab his weapon--that he fired his first shot inside the vehicle during the struggle. Which version you believe depends almost entirely upon your color.

Things began to get ugly the very next night. A candlelight vigil on Sunday and a string of peaceful demonstrations over the next few evenings turned violent and businesses were vandalized and looted. The police didn't help matters when they handled the situation and crowds with all the subtle deftness of the Wehrmacht turned loose in Warsaw. They ran so wild they not only aggressively arrested two reporters as they sat in a local McDonalds for reasons never explained, they tear gassed one television crew as it attempted to film what was happening.

Because they were dressed and equipped more like marines in Kandahar than cops on American streets a national debate began on the "militarization of America's local police." The governor of Missouri finally pulled both the Ferguson and the St. Louis County departments off the streets and put the state highway patrol in charge. They were under the command of Captain Rod Johnson--an African American who grew up in the community.

The feds jumped in to conduct civil rights violations and determine what actually happened that fatal Saturday. As usual they haven't figured out squat.Three separate autopsies were performed on Michael Brown's body. One by the local authorities, another by a federal medical examiner, and the last by a private pathologist hired by the family. The only thing all three determined, at least publicly, is that Brown was hit with six rounds. He took four in the right arm and two in the head. All the entry wounds were in his front.

Later the, police claimed the deceased was the prime suspect in a strong arm robbery committed at a convenience store just before the shooting. Dorian Johnson, through an attorney, admitted both of them were in on the heist. The loot was a box of Swisher Sweet cigars. The family screamed their son's character was being assassinated. A security camera tape was released to the press and it was obvious to everyone he did muscle his way out of the store. Yes, yes, Michael Brown was less than perfect and might have even been a thug, despite having no criminal record whatsoever. However, it  didn't change the reality he was unarmed and at the time of the confrontation, Darren Wilson didn't know he was a suspect in a crime.

Eleven days after the shooting occurred a grand jury was convened. It is still meeting and hasn't rendered a decision on whether to indict, Darren Wilson, or clear him of any wrong doing.

The verdict might not be in, but, Missouri governor Jay Nixon not only thinks the panel is close to one, it's obvious he is expecting the worst. In what could be interpreted as a provocation rather than a precaution he has already declared a state of emergency in Ferguson and activated units of the Missouri National Guard.

No matter what happens, this bad acid trip back to the 1960's has taught us the myth of a post racial America is just that.

As if we didn't know it already.

Obama doesn't look like most of us even though his mother did, so he had to be a foreigner and therefore not eligible for office. You think that wasn't about race? Ted Cruz is a foreigner and no one is ranting about his verified place of birth, not to mention the fact his old man wasn't an American citizen when little Edward came slithering out of the womb.

It appears there will always be a racial divide. George Zimmerman didn't jump out of his car and follow Trayvon Martin just because he was carrying a bag of Skittles. That other deadly goof in Florida--the one who opened fire on a car full of black kids in a convenience store parking lot--didn't do it just because their music was too loud.

Indeed. In all probability if it had been Willie Nelson on that CD he would have been right in the groove no matter how high the volume.

The next time you hear the horse shit argument that racism is dead in this country consider the source. It will almost always come from some right wing screecher trying to justify his hateful bile to black people.

Luckily for all of us the bar is open. And--for a few minutes anyway--we can avoid contemplating such on going tragedies. You know, like the one called the United States of America.



sic vita est


11-18-14

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reports: Obama is Ready to Go All Executive Action and the Excrement is About to Hit the Fan

That's right, the excrement is about to hit the fan. The New York Times is reporting the president of these United States, Barack H. Obama is tired of waiting on congress to do something about immigration reform so he is preparing to take matters into his own hands.

According to the Times at some point between today and the end of December, Mr. Obama will use executive measures, which will bi-pass the nit wits and cowards in congress. The actions will protect up to five million immigrants, who are now considered illegal, from deportation. Most of them--nearly 3.3 million--will be the parents of children who are either U.S. citizens, or legal residents. With the move they'll be able to get valid work permits and no longer have to worry about being separated from their kids when an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent comes knocking on the door.

The Times' source was careful to say deportation proceedings will continue to take place for convicted criminals, those people who are determined to be national security risks, and anyone trying to cross the border illegally. In other words, Obama's plan would only apply to law abiding people who are already here.

The story also notes the president wants to beef up security at the Mexican border. In addition, since ICE agents will no longer have to worry about the kitchen staff at your local McDonalds, they'll be able to put their full focus on gang members, drug dealers, and suspected terrorists.

While that sounds reasonable to many of us, the reaction from the right side of the room will most assuredly be described in terms such as, vein bulging outrage and high pitched screeching hysteria. Soon to be senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell has already said executive action on immigration by the president will be, "like waving a red flag in front of a bull." It is unclear if the senator from Kentucky was trying to be ironic by using a metaphor involving a traditional Mexican sport, or was just being a complete dope.

Tea party honchos, Ted Cruz, R-TX, Mike Lee, R-UT, and Jeff Sessions R-AL are attempting to put together a plan to stop the president, although it doesn't sound very original. Let's see if you've heard this one before. Their idea is to block the passage of the federal budget in order to shut down the government unless the bill specifically prohibits Obama from granting what they call, "executive amnesty."

Yes, we've been down that road before with the Affordable Care Act and it certainly didn't work out for them then. Why they think it would now is just about anyone's guess.

Of course the tea party vulgus was hot to trot on message boards all over the net after the story broke. They are using terms like, "rapists, drug dealers, and welfare cheats." In addition more than a few claim they are tired of, "financially carrying illegal immigrants who are given a free ride."

As usual, no one I've seen has offered up any statistics regarding illegal immigrants committing rape, dealing drugs,  or idly sitting around collecting welfare. It would also be fair to mention none of those fire breathing loons appear to know who installs the roofs on new houses, grooms lawns, or makes the tasty pancakes at the IHOP down the street. Those honest jobs would involve career paths very few legal Americans choose to take considering the pay scales and advancement opportunities.

The Times also pointed out the Obama people have told members of congress he would reverse any executive action if both houses would just get off their asses and pass a comprehensive reform bill he could sign. That's right, if you great gang of goofs would do something, I wouldn't have make these decisions on my own.

It isn't likely to happen though, because the republicans are deeply divided on immigration reform. The Bush wing of the party knows some sort of compromise must be reached. The tea party groupers want a spin off of Herr Hitler's final solution and won't budge until the feds start building camps and kicking in doors.

As for Obama? Well number one he doesn't have to run again so fuck 'em--he can do whatever is right no matter what the immediate consequences. Number two, in the long term, as the heated rhetoric from the republican fringe reaches levels which will be correctly interpreted as a plate of spicy hot xenophobia served with a side of racism, the Hispanic vote will be forever lost to the GOP.

The end of white rule is near for all those Anglo-European types who are convinced it is their inherent right to run this place. They aren't going to go quietly, but trust me, they are going to go.

The truth is, no matter how much you want, you cannot stop the prime dynamic of America which is change. In the end the greatest American tradition is we don't have any traditions. We are constantly evolving. Every age is different and every person is different. Unless you can trace your roots back to a native American tribe you are the descendant of an immigrant.

No matter how much you loathe it, or fear it, as the song said, "a change is gonna come."

That is the way it has always been in this nation.

If you can't deal with it you should probably move someplace else. You know--immigrate.




11-13-14

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice, Remembrance, and Veterans Day: Nearly 5,000 Years of War

It started out as Armistice Day. On November 11, 1918 the Germans signed an agreement with allied powers in a rail car at Compiegne, France to stop four plus years of awful bloodshed. At 11 am, British time, on the 11th day of the 11th month the cease fire took effect. News papers everywhere west of Berlin claimed the war was over.

Actually it wasn't. Although hostilities ceased on the western front, battles still raged in the east and in parts of the Ottoman Empire and would continue to do so for a while.

The original Armistice Day ceremonies were conducted in London by King George V and the president of France. Traditionally two minutes of silence were observed at 11am. The first minute was for the war dead, the second was for their widows, children, and families.

It is easy to see why the western allies chose to recognize the moment. Right now there are 888,246 ceramic poppies floating in the moat surrounding the Tower of London. Each one of them stands for a British service person who died in the conflict. That number represents a little over 2% of the population of the United Kingdom at the time. According to Wikipedia, if you throw in eight British colonies in Africa, plus India, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and South Africa the empire's body count rises to 1,118,760.

Wikipedia also tells us France and 16 of its colonies ranging from Vietnam to Tunisia lost 1,397,800 military personnel while over four million of its troops were wounded.

In the east it was worse. It is estimated the Russians lost 2,254,369 army personnel. The figures for Serbia fluctuate wildly depending on the source, but the high end is 365,164 which, if correct, means in a little over four years Serbia lost 18.11% of its population.

The Italians signed a separate armistice with what was known as the central powers a week before November 11th. By then they had suffered approximately 651,000 killed in action.

In comparison 116,708 U.S service people lost their lives in the war, but then we were only in it for 18 months.

On the other side the Germans and five of their colonies lost over two million in the trenches, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, nearly one and a half million, the Ottoman Empire over 700,000 and the Bulgarians close to 100,000.

Pretty soon the name Armistice Day evolved into Remembrance Day throughout the British Commonwealth. It is a day where not only the dead of WWI are honored, but also the dead of all the wars. Unfortunately there are plenty of both. In the United States Armistice Day became Veterans Day and it is meant not so much to honor the war dead--for us that is Memorial Day--but anyone who has served in the armed forces of the nation.

Of course the armistice and the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed the following year, didn't accomplish anything other than giving Europe a 21 year break from the carnage. Instead of learning from the nightmare everybody just re-armed with more efficient weapons and--except for the French--came up with better tactics. By 1939, thanks to Herr Hitler, they were all back at it again. The only difference in round two, besides the lack of trenches running from one end of France to the other, was the added charm of a virulent strain of eugenics which was played out in the most gruesome sort of ways. Well that and the Italians who, thanks to Benito Mussolini, switched sides and managed to get their vast and beautiful peninsula utterly ravaged.

Yes, "The Great War" ended up being just a precursor to even more barbarity. And while America tried to slip back into the coziness of isolationism it couldn't avoid the second conflict either.

So as the French, Belgians, and British lay wreaths and play their versions of taps, we in America say thanks to everyone who joined, or was drafted into the armed forces. The huge majority of them have been honorable, many were brave, and a few, because the military is nothing more than a reflection of the national population, were complete assholes and criminals.

Sadly we'll never be able to stop having these Remembrance and Veterans Days because we're never going to stop conducting wars. The first recorded one was fought about 2,700 BC. The combatants were Sumer, located in Iraq and Elam, which is present day Iran. A couple of sources say there were probably earlier ones, but writing hadn't been invented yet, so we simply don't know about them. That is nearly five thousand years of almost constant human conflict somewhere on this blue ball.

Psychologists, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, theologians and a myriad of other academics have and will continue to try to explain this terrible human affliction. They'll compose scholarly papers which will delve into social, religious and ancient tribal traditions, not to mention some genetic memory hoo doo.

Being a tad simplistic I have another couple of terse reasons we go to war. First we're good at it. Second, somewhere deep down in that reptilian part of our brain, we really, really like it.

Think not? Just ask any eleven year old boy what he thought of that ultra violent war movie he watched a few moments earlier. Invariably he will tell you it is coolest thing he's ever seen.

That would be seven years, or so before he actually ends up sitting in a shallow hole in the sand and sees his best friend's head blown to smithereens.

It is only in that awful second he'll understand there isn't a thing cool about war and that reality is a bitch. .

Too bad we can't teach it to everyone before they run for political office, listen to a recruiter, or pick up a gun.



sic vita est





11-11-14

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Doctor is Running

It sounds as if there will be a full fledged--out of the closet so to speak--republican candidate running for the GOP's 2016 presidential nomination by the end of the weekend.

Yes, while people like Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, and even big Mitt Romney himself hem and haw about joining the chase, ABC is reporting Dr. Ben Carson will charge out of the gate within the next 48 hours.

Carson, an African American, is a retired neurosurgeon of note. Most famously he is the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins who were connected at the head. It was considered such a remarkable feat a made for TV movie was produced and shown on the cable channel TNT. Cuba Gooding Jr. played his part.

At this point that is all behind him. Now he is a rootin' tootin' conservative hot shot. Besides writing six books he has been a weekly op-ed columnist for the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times. In addition he has been a regular guest commentator on FOX News which shouldn't be surprising. After all, FOX will air the opinions of just about any conservative who can string together more than three coherent sentences at a time.

Because of his speeches and books he has become such a hot commodity a, "Draft Ben Carson for President Committee" was formed.

In response to questions about him running for the highest office in the land he frequently said he'd leave it up to God. As late as a month ago, during an interview on Fusion, he told the host he didn't want to be president because, in his words, "Why would any sane person want to do that?" Moments later in the same conversation he said so many people were asking him to run, he would, despite the whole sanity issue, consider seeking the presidency. Indeed, when the cause is so great and the people demand it, why not consider risking your mental health in order to move into the White House and take charge? He also said he'd come to a decision early next year on whether, or not to run, presumably after conducting in depth talks with the Supreme Being.

Well, apparently the good Lord spoke to him a little earlier than expected because, according to ABC, the newly minted Carson campaign will kick off things with a 40 minute advertisement this weekend. It will run in 22 states plus Washington D.C. The ad is reportedly shot in the style of a documentary which will introduce the public to Carson's personal history, qualifications, and philosophy.

So what is his philosophy? Well there are a couple of hints. According to Wikipedia during a 2013 speech Dr. Carson called the Affordable Care Act, "The worst thing that has happened to this country since slavery." In the same speech he quoted Vladimir Lenin as saying, "Socialized medicine is the keystone to the establishment of a socialist state." That Lenin never said it is of little consequence. The conservative crowd believes he did, or at least thinks he would have if he'd thought things through a little.

On another occasion he showed up on Sean Hannity's FOX venue. While explaining to us that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman, he appeared to equate homosexuals with pedophiles and people who love animals a tad too much. During the controversy which followed he claimed he had not only been quoted out of context, but was also completely misunderstood. At a later date he apologized for his choice of words.

Yes, it looks like he'll fit right in with the other clowns, grifters, and sociopaths who will seek the GOP nomination in a couple of years.

Can he win though?

He'll certainly do better than the sexual deviant Herman Cain, the memory challenged Rick Perry, and the ever pert and sassy  Michelle Bachmann. However the truth is, in this 21st century political reality, he has to convince people like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers he is not only a true believer, but once in office he'll perform as a loyal employee. That's right. A four year ticket to the oval office is not only hard to score, but so expensive it makes the heart skip a beat.

Hey, if the money people don't believe you're their guy, or think you can win, there isn't a 40 minute ad created anywhere in the world which can carry you through a two year trek across America as you try to convince people you are the next best thing.

The truth is, at this moment, the only people who think Ben Carson is credible are the mainstream media looking to hike the political news ratings and his less than impressive, but wildly enthusiastic supporters. Let's face it, first, he can't win a republican primary in the south which is crucial. Second, he hasn't faced a full on nationally televised debate--you know--where someone actually disagrees with him. And, as much as we say we hate professional politicians, we really do get queasy when a newbie struts into the arena and claims he has all the answers.

The good physician is, quite frankly, chasing windmills and while some will believe his campaign is idealistically admirable, many others will consider it an exercise in doomed egotism

Doc, in the end, my suggestion is don't burn your bridges at FOX News. You're probably going to need that gig in the next few years no matter how slick your ad is this weekend.




sic vita est


11-7-14

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Alina Fitzpatrick: Three Long Years

It has been a three long years. On Friday, November 4th, 2011, seventeen year old Alina Fitzpatrick stepped into the darkness and never returned.

According to her obituary she was last seen around 10 pm that evening. Various reports say a friend dropped her off at an apartment complex near NW 24th St. and Western Ave. on the near north west side of Oklahoma City. Shortly afterward her cell phone was turned off and calls were routed directly to her voice mail. At least one accounting of the events says she never made it to the apartment she was intending to visit.

Other reports assert that in the days prior to her disappearance she told friends and family she had become frightened of a, "suspicious," man. If the teenager knew his name she kept it to herself, although she did tell people she suspected he'd found out her cell phone number. The situation was apparently disturbing enough that she went to the trouble of having it changed.

News stories said she had attended Putnam City North High School, but switched to the Putnam City Virtual High School home schooling program because of bullying. A Putnam City School District spokesperson was quick to issue a statement claiming the system showed no record of her being bullied.

For her parents, alarm bells began ringing almost immediately after she went missing. According to them she had never disappeared without a word like that before. Flyers were posted in the area she was last seen in. A web site, helpfindalina.com was quickly put together to facilitate tips to her whereabouts. Other appeals for help and information were posted on facebook.

On November 9th a man and his mother went to check on family property in far eastern Oklahoma City near the intersection of NE 50th and Anderson Road. What they found there was the nude body of a young white girl. It didn't take long for it to be identified as the remains of Alina Fitzpatrick.

Besides being found naked, reports indicated she had suffered what looked to be blunt force trauma to the head, plus cuts and abrasions to her face and body. In addition police said there were remnants of what appeared to be a gag in her mouth made of, "paper, or a cotton like substance."

Despite the obvious signs of foul play police refused to rule her death as a homicide until they received the medical examiner's autopsy report. Three years to the day after she disappeared they still haven't.

When the ME's report did come in it showed she had methamphetamine in her system--possibly enough to kill her. In conclusion the Medical Examiner called the circumstances of her death, "suspicious." In that awful moment you could almost hear detectives slamming file cabinet drawers shut.

When questioned about the case on the 20th of January, 2012, Oklahoma City Police spokesperson, Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow told a reporter, the case wasn't considered a homicide, but police were keeping an open file on it.

That assessment of the situation hit a raw never somewhere, because nine days later, OKCPD Captain, Dexter Nelson told the press, "Homicide is just a legal term that gives us grounds to prosecute someone. We are still investigating it as a suspicious death. You investigate them the same way." He went on to say none of the obvious wounds suffered by Ms. Fitzpatrick were serious enough in themselves to cause her death. He also told a reporter, "She was with people who were involved in illegal behavior at the time, no doubt." He finished by saying detectives needed help from the public in order to solve the case. The department has yet to get the break it asked for that day.

Nelson spoke to the press on the 29th of January, 2012. It was pretty much the last time anyone in the mainstream media has mentioned the death of Alina Fitzpatrick.

News stories about her disappearance and death still exist on the internet simply because once something is there it never goes away, at least not until the almighty electrical grid collapses. Almost everything you find about her though was written in either late 2011, or early 2012. The world, it would seem, has moved on. There are new outrages, fresh bodies, and more calamity to talk about.

Her funeral was held on November 22, 2011. According to the online obituary she had wanted to go to the University of Central Oklahoma to study nursing. It also mentions she was buried in a hand made casket built and blessed by the Benedictine monks of New Melleray Abbey in Iowa. One set of grandparents lived here, the other in Siberia. Her mother called her Alineichka.

Saying her murder is tragic is an understatement. Believing the police did everything they could is, honestly, nothing more than a hopeful fantasy.

In the end, to paraphrase John Donne, any person's death diminishes us.

Yes it does. And, ultimately, we are lessened even more by both forgetting the death of Alina Fitzpatrick and the crime which caused it.

A Person, or persons out there killed her. They need to pay the price for committing the heinous act. Finding those beasts is the very least we can do--not just for her parents, but, Alina herself.

Indeed.

Donne famously wrote the bell has tolled. If you listen carefully to the echoes, even  three years after she was killed, you'll  realize, when it comes to Alina Fitzpatrick, it has, as the poet also said, tolled for us  too.




sic vita est


11-4-14